Month: October 2015

Steaks on a Plane: Which U.S. Airline Spends the Most on Your Dinner?

How much are U.S. airlines willing to spend on meals in the sky? The era of complimentary hot dinners may be long gone, but there’s still some creativity in the kitchen.
United Airlines just rolled out new menus for domestic flights, pledging to offer “restaurant-quality” food throughout its network. But is that possible, given airlines’ limited food budgets? A look at the latest numbers on in-flight food from the U.S. Department of Transportation show a vast range in what individual airlines are investing in their kitchens. In fact, among the ten largest U.S. airlines that report their culinary expenditures to the government, United is one of the most generous, spending, on average, $6.08 per passenger in 2014, second only to American, where the tab was $6.43 per person. (That’s for all classes of service, domestic and international.)

The average for all the airlines in the sample was $3.61 per person, but that’s because budget airlines like Spirit, which spent a beyond-budget 26 cents a person, get thrown into the mix. Spirit, along with Southwest and Allegiant, don’t serve food at all, except, perhaps, for a bag of pretzels. Others include Delta, which forks over $5.36 per flier; Virgin America, at $3.73 per person; and JetBlue at $1.39.

Now that airlines are in the black again, will customers’ stomachs get some attention?
But DOT’s data also reveals the degree to which airline catering has been on the decline since the late 1990s; average spending among major full-service airlines like American and United topped $8 a passenger in 2001, and the average for all carriers that year was $4.79. You’d have to go a long way back to find a time when U.S. airlines actually competed on the quality of their food, serving steaks to order and freshly baked cookies (think Pan Am in the 1960s). But the reality is that food quality comes down to what you paid for your flight—if you’re flying 14 hours in first class, you’ll eat well. Things went downhill after 2001, as gourmet dining wasn’t exactly a priority for money-losing airlines; the average food spending hit a low of $3.30 per person in 2007. According to the DOT’S Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average airline spending on food has dropped by about 25 percent since 2001.

Now that airlines are in the black again, will customers’ stomachs get some attention? United’s new food plan gives us hope; the airline is actually serving hot meals in the back of the plane as well. This isn’t the first reboot of its food program—it enlisted The Trotter Project to devise a new “Bistro on Board”—nor is it the only domestic airline getting creative. Alaska Airlines has offered up Cascade brisket chili, grilled cheese, or smoky BBQ chicken sandwiches developed by star chef Tom Douglas. Of course, those economy meals are for sale—the era of free meals in economy class is long gone, aside from on Hawaiian Air—but the addition of real cooked fare is indeed news, especially given the paucity of edible food aloft in recent years. The new selections, which include a “bistro bowl” with braised beef, vegetables, and steamed rice, will start showing up in cabins on November 1. New entrees for United first class passengers will include Spanish paella and mushroom risotto, and on the trancontinental p.s. (premium service) flights, steak and made-to-order sundaes are on the menu.

4 companies trying to revolutionize currency exchange

Photo: frankieleon, Flickr

Many a junk drawer is littered with unintended souvenirs from international travels in the form of bills, coins and currency you can’t spend back at home. We set the extra Ringgit aside thinking it will come in handy when we revisit Malaysia, or that surely we’ll remember to pack that handful of Canadian change before we drive up to Montreal next. But you know as well as I do that all of that foreign currency will be with you longer than your current lease — or maybe even spouse.

Lucky for you, a number of companies are attempting to clear the pesos and rupees out of your change drawer forever, with a wave of services aiming to revolutionize currency exchange. Here are a few of our favorites:

FourEx: Currently being rolled out around London, this vending machine is reminiscent of the Coinstar kiosks at so many grocery stores stateside. But FourEx machines accept 150 different foreign currencies, and transform them into British pounds, Euros or U.S. dollars.

TravelersBox: More than half a million people have used the 45 kiosks in Turkey, Manchester, Milan, the Philippines and Tbilisi to transform their leftover change into a Paypal deposit back into their own bank accounts. TravelersBox is notable in that users are given the option of turning their coinage into gift cards (think Starbucks, iTunes and Google Play), or donating the balance to charity. Best of all, the company charges no fee to the user.

WeSwapUsing this company requires a bit of advance planning, but the results speak for themselves. Before traveling to another country, WeSwap users log into the site and declare how much money they are looking to exchange, into what foreign currency, and by what date. WeSwap then pairs each request with someone hoping to make the opposite exchange, and makes the switch. The new currency is then loaded onto a prepaid credit card, and accepted everywhere Mastercard is, without any additional foreign-exchange fee.

CurrencyFairSurely the most time-consuming on this list, CurrencyFair allows its pool of international users to set their own exchange rates, and then hope and wait for someone else to accept the transfer. The company takes a little bit off the top — .015%, actually. In the event that nobody steps up to exchange with you, CurrencyFair will make the exchange for a 4% to 5% fee. This one won’t be of much help in turning your heavy coins into crisp American bills again, but with a bit of planning, CurrencyFair might be able to provide you with the most bang for your buck when trading currencies.

Arming yourself with a good old-fashioned currency exchange rate list is the easiest way to protect yourself from hidden fees and stingy rates when switching from one nation’s dollar to another’s. This app is free in the App Store and on Google Play.

Whether you choose to use one of the services above, or go a more traditional route and hit up the classic currency exchange desk, it is important to remember that the rates offered in most airports are nowhere near the most favorable to consumers.

The 13 most haunted hotels in the world

From disembodied voices to ghostly apparitions, we’ve heard many spooky details from hotel guests who have visited notoriously haunted hotels. While reviewers haven’t had any paranormal run-ins at these spots, staff and guests have allegedly had eerie encounters that may leave you sleeping with one eye open. So if costume parties are too tame for your Halloween, consider booking a stay at one of the 13 most haunted hotels in the world. Just don’t fault the hotel if a spirit interrupts your slumber.

1. Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

A 1909 building, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park has been reporting paranormal activity since the 1970s and has been the subject of many paranormal investigations. Many believe owners F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora are the more prominent ghostly guests, often seen in the Billiards Room or making the Music Room’s piano play. In 1974, horror author Stephen King stayed in room 217 at the hotel and based his novel The Shining on the hotel. The hotel offers nightly ghost tours, an on-site psychic, and TVs that play the Jack Nicholson thriller on a continuous loop. They’ve even installed a miniature tree maze in the front of the property as a nod to the book. Guests can stay in one of several reportedly haunted guest rooms.

2. Bourbon Orleans Hotel, New Orleans

The grand, historic Bourbon Orleans Hotel originally opened in 1827 as a ballroom for glamorous events. By the late 1800s the hotel was acquired by the Sisters of the Holy Family to be used as a school, orphanage, medical ward, and convent; a yellow fever epidemic struck at this time and led to the death of many children. It’s said that the ghosts of children and nuns can be seen and heard throughout the hotel. Additionally, several reports of a ghost dancer in the famous Orleans Ballroom have been made. You can book a Ghosts & Spirits Walking Tour, which stops at the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, during your visit to New Orleans.

3. Emily Morgan Hotel, San Antonio

Housed in a historic neo-Gothic building with a reputation for paranormal activity, the 177-room boutique Emily Morgan Hotel has a prime downtown location across from the Alamo. It also at one time was a medical facility, so the property housed a morgue and a psychiatric ward. Reports of unexplained noises, apparitions, and the feeling of being touched are pretty frequent. If you want to up your chances of a paranormal encounter, book a room on the seventh, ninth, eleventh, or twelfth floors. Also, as a nod to the hotel’s notoriety for paranormal activity, the on-site Oro Restaurant and Bar offers a Psychic Happy Hour with palm readings on Thursday nights.

4. Omni Parker House, Boston

Steeped in history, stuffed with ghost lore, and teeming with old-world grandeur, the surprisingly affordable Omni Parker House is the place to stay for a taste of Boston’s literary and political past. The original hotel opened in 1855 and was run by founder Harvey Parker until his death in 1884. Many guests have reported seeing him in their guest rooms, where he’s asked about their stay. After a businessman died in room 303, there were multiple reports of laughter and the smell of whiskey. Stephen King’s short story 1408, which was made into a movie with Jim Carrey, centers on a writer who experiences a haunted stay at a New York hotel; the story was based on the supernatural activity in room 303.

5. Langham Hotel, London

One of the more notable historical hotels in London, the Langham Hotel has been around since 1865 — when it opened as the city’s first purpose-built luxury hotel. The hotel is a frequent place of lodging for celebrities and royals, and apparently, ghosts. Guests have reported seeing the apparition of a German prince, a German solider and a doctor who murdered his wife and then killed himself on their honeymoon, among others. The spirit of Emperor Napoleon III, who lived at the Langham during his last days in exile, has also been said to occupy the basement. Room 333 is supposedly the most haunted of the guest rooms and is available for booking for any brave travelers.

6. The Southern Mansion, Cape May

Originally a country estate for Philadelphia industrialist George Allen and his family,The Southern Mansion was built in 1863. When the last of Allen’s relatives, Ester Mercur, passed away, her husband sold the property. It was later bought and restored to its former glory, utilizing many of the original architectural elements and heirlooms. It’s said that Ester, Allen’s niece, can often be seen throughout the property — particularly in the kitchen. Staff will tell guests all the ghost stories associated with the hotel upon request.

7. Audubon Cottages, New Orleans

First built in the late 18th century, and named after naturalist and writer John James Audubon — who lived in one of the cottages in the first half of the 19th century — theAudubon Cottages have managed to stand the test of time with thorough renovations and continuous maintenance. Like many historic properties, it’s said to have a haunted history. Cottage Two and Cottage Four are supposedly the ones with frequent paranormal activity. Disembodied voices and the feeling of being touched are supposedly common occurrences. Cottage Four also is said to frequently host the spirit of a Confederate soldier who ensures the radio is always playing country music. He can also be seen in the courtyard.

8. The Marshall House, Savannah

Built in 1851, the charming 68-room Marshall House accommodated Union soldiers during the Civil War — and some guests say their spirits still walk the hallways. The oldest hotel in Savannah, it also acted as a hospital three times — once for soldiers and twice for yellow fever epidemic victims. During renovations, workers found human remains under the floorboards from long-ago surgeries when the ground was frozen and nothing could be buried. In addition to seeing ghosts throughout the property, guests report hearing children run down the halls, faucets turning on by themselves, and the rattling of doorknobs.

9. The Hay-Adams, Washington D.C.

Quite possibly the most famous hotel in the capital, The Hay-Adams has hosted many a politician, including the Obamas before inauguration. In 1884, best friends John Hay (Abraham Lincoln’s private secretary and later a Secretary of State) andHenry Adams (the author, and descendant of John Quincy) built their homes on the plot of land where the hotel now sits. In 1927, nine years after Adams’ death, the houses were razed and replaced by the hotel that stands today. Adams’ wife, Marian Hooper Adams, committed suicide on the site in 1885 and her spirit reportedly haunts the hotel. Guests and staff say they can hear a woman crying softly, disembodied voices, and doors opening and closing on their own.

10. Hotel Sorrento, Seattle

Built at the turn of the 20th century, the upscale Hotel Sorrento is an iconic Seattle boutique property. It’s said that the ghost of Alice B. Toklas, a woman credited with the invention of pot brownies, can often be seen roaming the halls, particularly around room 408. Guests have also reported their drinks being moved at the Dunbar Room. To honor her, they have a Ms. Toklas cocktail on the menu that includes lucid absinthe, elderflower, chamomile, honey, and lemon juice — so you can get both a trick and a treat at the Sorrento.

11. Hotel Provincial, New Orleans

The two-story Hotel Provincial — with 94 rooms in the historic French Quarter — is a retreat into old New Orleans. Like many New Orleans properties, it also claims to be a popular paranormal activity hub. Like other area hotels, the property acted as a medical facility for wounded confederate soldiers and is said to still possess their spirits. From distressed soldiers and operating doctors to pools of blood, guests have reported it all. If actually staying at the property seems too spooky, it’s also a stop on many walking ghost tours of the city.

12. Omni Shoreham, Washington D.C.

Built in 1930, the Omni Shoreham Hotel has echoing ceilings, grand chandeliers, and an allegedly haunted suite. The Ghost Suite, a two-bedroom apartment-style suite with a full kitchen, is reportedly haunted; spirits of the original owner, his daughter, and the housekeeper supposedly linger here. Both the housekeeper, Juliette, and the owner’s daughter, Helen, died in the suite. Once the family was gone, reports of unexplained noises, lights being turned on, and the feeling of someone running by, were made. Travelers can book the suite if they’re looking for the chance of a paranormal encounter.

13. Ballygally Castle, Northern Ireland

Built in 1625, Ballygally Castle is steeped in history, some of which is sinister. The original owner Lord James Shaw and his wife Lady Isabella lived at the castle until Lady Shaw either fell, jumped, or was pushed to her death from the top of the castle. Her ghost is said to be friendly, seen wandering around the castle or knocking on doors and then disappearing. The hotel has dedicated “The Ghost Room,” in one of the towers of the oldest part of the castle, in her honor.

US Airways’ final flight closes curtain on another major airline

It’s time to say farewell to US Airways. One of the USA’s most storied airline brands fades away Friday night with Flight 1939.

The overnight red-eye flight from San Francisco to Philadelphia marks the last ever departure under the US Airways name as the carrier’s merger with American nears completion. Shortly after the flight departs San Francisco at 9:55 p.m. PT, American will unify its own reservations systems for the flights of both airlines. There will be no more US Airways flights once the plane lands in Philadelphia, scheduled for 6:18 a.m. ET.

US Airways’ fade into the history books will be a nostalgic one. Flight 1939 is scheduled to begin Friday morning in Philadelphia, a traditi

onal US Airways stronghold. From there, the Airbus A321 – still painted in US Airways’ colors – will continue to Charlotte, which grew to become the airline’s busiest hub during the past decade. Next is Phoenix – the former headquarters to 2004 merger partner America West.

From there, Flight 1939 heads to San Francisco, then returns to Pennsylvania as the last-ever US Airways flight.

American will commemorate the last day with gate-side festivities at each stop. And passengers on the final departure from San Francisco will cheer the US Airways’ name with an onboard champagne toast.

“We definitely wanted to give a nod to US Airways and everyone that helped us build this airline,” American Airlines spokeswoman Martha Thomas told USA TODAY. “We wanted to make it a special experience for employees and customers.”

Even the flight number is rooted in history. Initially the San Francisco-to-Philadelphia red-eye was to operate as Flight 434. But in August the carrier switched the flight number to 1939. That was the first year of operation for All American Aviation, a small Pennsylvania-based airmail outfit that would grow to become a regional player known as Allegheny Airlines.

Allegheny changed its name in 1979, adopting USAir to reflect the expanding footprint of the airline after growing in previous mergers with Mohawk and Lake Central Airlines. Bigger mergers with Piedmont and Pacific Southwest (PSA) followed in the 1980s. The company underwent one last name change, adopting its current US Airways name in 1997 before yet another merger in 2005 – this time with America West.

Now, the US Airways name is on the verge of disappearing.

US Airways’ reservation system will go dark Saturday morning just after midnight. US Airways’ website will follow. And at airports across the nation, airline staff will begin removing US Airways branding after the company’s last flights on Friday. The goal is to have American Airlines signage up in its place by the time flights begin again on Saturday morning.

Certain pieces of US Airways will hang on a bit longer. It will take American until “late 2016” to repaint all of its planes in the colors of the new American. And US Airways flight attendant uniforms will remain until update uniforms for all the cabin crews are introduced, also expected to come next year.

American spokeswoman Thomas cautioned the airline still has some “behind the scenes” work to do even as the US Airways brand fades away.

“It’s done for customers, but there’s still a lot of integration work left for us to do behind the scenes,” Thomas says.

As for Flight 1939, American spokesman Ross Feinstein says the airline has had “strong demand” from customers wishing to be on the flight – especially the San Francisco-Philadelphia leg. Coach class is near capacity and first-class seats have been sold out since July.

Feinstein says the “vast majority” of people on the flight appear to be aviation enthusiasts and “avgeeks” wanting to witness US Airways’ final flight.

For passenger Mark Littell, Flight 1939 will have special meaning.  Littell grew up in the shadow of the Pittsburgh airport when it was still a hub for the airline in the 1990s.

‘I grew up seeing and hearing (then) USAir’s planes land all the time,” he says. “Most families in my community were directly impacted by the hub there, and I eventually worked in concessions in the airport’s US Airways terminal by the time I was in high school.”

That led to a connection with the airline that’s lasted to this day.

Littell moved away from Pittsburgh as an adult, traveling full-time for his job in the medical profession. He flies more than 100,000 miles a year, mostly on Delta. But once he saw Flight 1939 announced as US Airways’ final flight, he booked a ticket “to fly (them) one final time.” He’ll be among those on Friday night’s San Francisco-Philadelphia leg.

Littell says he’s happy to see US Airways become part of the world’s biggest airline, but concedes it “will be sad to see the memories of the US Airways name fade.”

Despite that, Littell says “it really is the employees who make an airline, and I know US Airways employees will be a great addition to the new American.”

Could this be the airline of the future?

Teague, the Seattle-based company that helped design Microsoft’s first Xbox and Boeing’s787 Dreamliner, spent some quality time re-imagining the flying experience of the future and came up with Poppi, a new airline that is disruptive, inventive and very appealing.

If only it were real.

“We wanted to create a means for the airline industry to preview innovations that passengers will love and that will help airlines become more profitable,” said Devin Liddell, Teague’s principal brand strategist, “in hopes that they’ll adopt some of the ideas now instead of when it’s too late.”

So what does Poppi have that United, Delta, American and other real-world airlines don’t?

For starters, overhead bins just large enough to hold computer bags, jackets and hats.

“On Poppi there would be no big carry-on bags,” said Liddell. Instead, everyone’s luggage would be tagged with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag “that lets them know exactly where their bag is. That would sidestep the nightmare that takes place on the cabin when people try to cram their bags into the overhead bins and would make exiting the plane go much faster.”

For frequent business travelers and other passengers who really need to keep a carry-on bag nearby, Poppi would offer customized luggage that becomes part of the seat.

Passengers assigned to the dreaded middle seat would be in a rebranded “Promotional Class” and rewarded with perks, gifts or bonuses designed to make up for the discomfort, while other passengers might pay extra to be seated in an experience-rich section, such as “Cinema Class,” that offers special, sponsored content.

“The tech industry never stops thinking about what’s next,” said Liddell, “but for a variety of reasons there isn’t as much of an appetite for innovation in the aviation industry as there should be.”

That’s one reason Teague created the imaginary Poppi airline and is sharing these and other innovative ideas with the public.

“We wanted to put this out there to spark conversation and change,” said Liddell. “And we believe just about all the ideas we’ve come up with are do-able within the next five to ten years.”

Members-only Set Jet promises “better than first class” air travel

Photo: Set Jet, Facebook

West Coast-based members-only luxury airline Set Jet is getting into the daily flights grind,announcing a schedule of routes between Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco and Las Vegas. You’ve never flown on a members-only luxury airline and don’t know what to expect, you say?

Set Jet describes itself as, ahem, “a Membership based social network and private jet charter flight platform, available exclusively for its security pre-screened and approved Members”. And as such, the far majority of us will never actually buckle into one of the company’s Bombardier Challenger 850 or CRJ200 private jets for a jaunt off to a luxury vacation. I’ve made my peace with that. Still, it is equal parts exciting and eye-rolling to read about what the company is working to accomplish.

Set Jet flights can be booked (by members) as little as 30 minutes before a departing flight. If you’re the type to not cut it quite so tight when it comes to boarding, you can enjoy access to the company’s private lounge in its own VIP terminal. Up in the air in one of just 15 sumptuous seats aboard the plane, enjoy complimentary cocktails made with top shelf liquor. All of this adds up to what Trey Smith, President of Set Jet, calls “better than first class travel”.

Set Jet membership will set you back $99.95 each month, with one-way flights on the aforementioned routes costing an additional $399. I think it’s safe to say at this point that the general public is familiar enough with the concept of a brand new transportation company with an untraditional business model. If anything, we’ve come to expect it. A similar members-only airline just kicked off daily all-you-can-fly service in New York, D.C. and Boston after all.

The test for Set Jet and the like will just be time.

First look: Boeing’s new ‘Space Bins’ expand carry-on capacity

SEATTLE – Tired of battling your fellow travelers for overhead bin space for your carry-on bags? Help is on the way.

It will come in the form of new “Space Bins,” an option Boeing is adding to its best-selling 737 airplanes that will soon be flying on at least three U.S. airlines. The bins will increase carry-on capacity by up to 50%.

Alaska Airlines will be the world’s first airline to fly with the new bins, taking delivery of the inaugural Space Bin 737 on Friday at Boeing Field in Seattle. Delta will be next, taking its first Space Bin 737s in early 2016. United also is among the seven global airlines that already have committed to the bins.

Boeing’s new bin design comes as more travelers try to bring their bags onboard instead of paying checked-bag fees now in place at nearly every big airline in North America. That has led to a carry-on crunch inside the cabin, with overhead bins often filling to capacity even as passengers are still boarding the plane.

Boeing pledges its 737 Space Bins will help alleviate that crunch.

The roomier Space Bins – which the company is selling as an option for airlines buying its 737s – will accommodate six standard-size carry-on bags. That’s up from four on the standard bins currently offered on the jetmaker’s latest 737 models.

“We’ve had strong customer demand for a larger bin solution,” says Brent Walton, Boeing’s new features manager for 737 interiors.

He acknowledges the development of new bins was spurred largely by the uptick in fliers with carry-ons, something that has created headaches both for fliers and airlines. He says Boeing, and the carriers that have ordered the Space Bins, are confident they’ll be a problem-solver.

“It’s two-fold,” Walton says. “Passengers will have room to stow their carry-on when they get onboard. It’s less stressful.

“It also eliminates the need for the airlines to have to gate-check bags when the plane is too full. The airlines think it may help them reduce their workload and also lead to faster turn times.”

Alaska Airlines believes shifting to the Space Bins will have a dramatic impact on its flights.

On the carrier’s Boeing 737-900s – the largest model of the plane in the Alaska Airlines’ fleet – the Space Bins will allow the 181-seat jet to hold 174 bags. By comparison, the current bins on Alaska Airlines’ 737-900s have a capacity of just 117 bags.

“It’s a pretty impressive increase,” says Sangita Woerner, Vice President, Marketing at Alaska Airlines. “Virtually everyone can carry on a bag, which is fantastic.”

The 737 delivered to Alaska Airlines on Friday will begin flying paying passengers next month. With a combination of new aircraft deliveries and the retrofitting of 34 newer 737s already in its fleet, Alaska Airlines expects about half of its 150-plane fleet to have Space Bins by the end of 2017.

To come up with a workable design for its larger bins, Boeing says it had to trim about 2 inches between the bottom of the bins and passengers’ seats but found a group of test subjects didn’t mind losing headroom.

“The response has been positive,” Walton says. “If anything, for those passengers who aren’t quite as tall, it’s been a little bit of an improvement to reach the attendant call light, the reading light and the (nozzles) for air.”

Why bin space matters

Knowing there’s adequate room for carry-ons “reduces the stress and uncertainty associated with the flight,” says Henry Harteveldt, travel industry analyst and founder of the Atmosphere Research Group. “It could make a customer feel more confident and comfortable booking a particular airline.”

And, he says, airlines flying with the Space Bins will be able to meet one of the top preferences of many fliers.

“People don’t want to check their bags,” Harteveldt says. “Especially the business traveler, because it saves valuable time when they get off the plane.”

Alaska Airlines’ Woerner says customer surveys and tests show “there’s a ton of anxiety about getting on that plane.”

“It’s less about priority boarding and getting on first. It’s more about, ‘Am I going to have space in that bin for my bag?’ ”

Only 737s for now

While passengers may be excited at the prospect of having more room for their bags, Boeing will only be offering the Space Bins on its new 737s with the “Boeing Sky Interior,” the company’s branding for the updated airy interiors it installs on its current-generation passenger planes. Airlines already flying 737s with that interior will have the option to retrofit those planes to include the Space Bins – something Alaska Airlines has said it would do.

For new 737s, Boeing is offering the extra-spacious bins as an option for airlines willing to pay more – though Boeing would not divulge how much more.

Southwest, the world’s largest operator of the 737, told USA TODAY it currently has no plans to add Space Bins to its existing 737 orders. It’s perhaps no coincidence, however, that the airline is the last major holdout to allow customers to check bags for free.

But Harteveldt predicts that if Boeing’s Space Bin concept proves popular, “we may see Boeing adapt it to its widebody aircraft.”

Harteveldt points out that Boeing has a long history of tailoring popular innovations from its newer planes for use on other aircraft in its manufacturing lineup.

“For example, the Boeing Sky Interior concept evolved from the cabin design of the 787 Dreamliner. The Space Bin is evolving out of that. So just because something starts in one type of airplane doesn’t mean it will never appear on another,” Harteveldt says.

Don’t throw out your boarding pass. Hackers can use it to access your personal info

James Whatley/Flickr

After you hand the gate agent your boarding pass to scan and head back onto the plane, there’s a pretty good chance you quit paying attention to that stub in your hand. If you’re like me, your boarding pass will either end up on the ground or in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Big mistake.

The innocent looking lines and fuzzy pixels of the bar code actually contain a treasure trove of passenger information that could easily be exploited by shady characters who want access to your accounts. That’s exactly what Brian Krebs discovered in his blog Krebs on Security, after a reader did some sleuthing on a friend who’d posted a picture of his boarding pass on Facebook. Using a free online reader, the amateur detective was able to decode the bar code quickly.

The information uncovered included his friend’s name, phone number, frequent-flier number and flight information, all of which can be used to access an account and take effective control of it. According to Krebs, the information is also enough to make it easier for an attacker to reset the PIN number used to secure the account.

photo by Krebs on Security

Unfortunately, security is a problem throughout the travel industry, as illustrated when United — as well as both Trump and Hilton Hotels — were hacked earlier this year.

Airbus reveals idea to make airplane seating even worse: stack fliers on top of each other

screenshot of Airbus patent

Airlines have done just about everything they can to cram in more seats, and as a result we’re now at the point airplane seating has gotten so crowded that a consumer group has asked for a newPassenger Bill of Rights to set minimum airplane seat size. But more seats equal more money, and Airbus has come up with a new way to add even more seating into already limited space: do the same thing cities do when they run out of space and can no longer build across — start building up.

The plane manufacturer has filed a patent with the European Patent Office for designs. The new layout would feature a raised mezzanine for extra seating inside the cabin. If the seating plan ever comes to fruition, not only will you have someone’s seatback to worry about, you might get one more passenger coming down above you. As the patent diagrams show, you could at least have a booty hanging above your face (and what could be wrong with that?).

But don’t worry, the patent assures the new design will still provide, “a high level of comfort.”

“In the reclined lying position, the backrest portion may extend at an angle of approximately 130 to 180 relative to the seating portion. In one embodiment of the passenger seating arrangement…at least one of the first and the second seat in its reclined lying position, is provide an entirely flat supporting surface.”

screenshot of patent

Well, that does sound nice, particularly for those sitting up top — as long as they don’t mind climbing down from a glorified bunk bed every time they want to stretch their legs or use the bathroom.

This could be a significant improvement over modern-day economy. But the patent actually recommends this scheme for business class, which does make sense from an available space perspective, but it’s hard to imagine anyone who’s paid several thousand dollars for a ticket agree to be “stacked” in any way, shape or form.

How it’s all stacked remains a very open question, as the patent proposes no less than seven formations. Some look more appealing than others. Figure 10, for example, has passengers facing each other in a way that’s not totally dissimilar to the recently revealed “honeycomb” seating plan that was the subject of internet outrage.

screenshot of patent

Thankfully, the idea remains just that, according to one Airbus spokesperson, who reassured theTelegraph:

“This does not mean they are necessarily going to be adopted into an aircraft design. This preserves the innovation and idea.”

For now we’ll just hope Airbus adopts one of these innovative ideas instead.

6 frequent flier promotions you shouldn’t miss this fall

Photo credit, Beltyukov

Miles and points collectors know a good deal when they see one, but sometimes promotions fly under the radar. Here are six promotions to consider this month that will fatten up your points piggy bank.


1. Earn up to 125,000 miles with American or British Airways (valid until Jan. 31, 2016). To celebrate the five-year anniversary of the partnership between oneworld members American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair and Iberia, the airlines are offering big bonuses for most tickets between North America and Europe. The bonus miles start at an additional 2,000 for the cheapest roundtrip fares, but skyrocket to 25,000 miles roundtrip for more expensive business and first class tickets. A total of five roundtrips would give high rollers enough miles to redeem for a free business or first class ticket to Europe or beyond. Be sure to register before jetting off.

2. Copa Airlines offering free status matches with upgrades, and up to 150,000 bonus miles.Panama’s Copa Airlines just launched its own frequent flier program after previously using United’s MileagePlus program. To lure new customers, Copa is offering status matches to many elite fliers. This automatically gives qualifying customers elite status with Copa, which offers elites complimentary upgrades on its flights. Higher membership tiers come with Star Alliance Gold status and regional upgrade certificates. Separately, a new promotion awards 1,000 bonus miles for flying to one of Copa’s newest destinations (like New Orleans or San Francisco). Fly to 10 cities, and you can rack up 150,000 bonus miles. Register for the program and promotion on Copa’s website and fly between now and March 31, 2016.


3. 2x miles with American and Japan Airlines (valid until Dec. 15). Fliers winging their way to Asia with either American or Japan Airlines can earn double miles on first and business class fares. Some economy class fares are also included in the offer, but typically exclude the cheapest tickets. Registration for this offer is key.

4. Double Premier Qualifying Miles for some United fliers (ends Dec. 15).  This deal isn’t for everyone, but it is worth checking to see if you qualify in case you missed the email. United is targeting some fliers with an offer to earn double Premier Qualifying Miles (the miles that help you reach elite status) for flights between now and Dec. 15. Check your eligibility here by entering code TB5M74.

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5. Sign up for a NextIssue app trial for $15 and pocket 2,000 American miles. This iPad app gives you access to dozens of popular magazines like Men’s Health, People, and Time. Sign up for the trial month for $15 and receive 2,000 American Advantage miles after it’s over. You can cancel the NestIssue app trial after one month if you want, and keep your 2,000 miles. Considering Aadvantage miles are commonly valued at about 1.7 to 1.8 cents each, and this offer gives you 2,000 points at well less than a penny each, it’s a very good deal.

6. Buy Alaska Airlines miles and receive up to 40 percent bonus (ends Oct. 6). Buying miles is rarely a good proposition, but Alaska’s deal offering up to a 40 percent bonus on purchased miles can  be worthwhile for some customers. If you buy the maximum number of miles, it would cost $1,182.50 for 56,000 miles. That is more than enough for a one-way business class ticket between North America and Asia on partner Cathay Pacific, which would be way more expensive if you paid in cash.