Tag: USAToday

Hotel guests use Wi-Fi within seven minutes

Seven minutes. That’s how long it takes to microwave a small frozen pizza. It’s the length ofLed Zeppelin’s No Quarter, give or take a second. And it’s also the maximum amount of time that the majority of hotel guests can go without connecting to Wi-Fi.

How addicted are travelers? According to a survey conducted by English hotelier Roomzzz, 65% of guests were online within seven minutes of checking in and one third requested the Wi-Fi password as soon as they arrived. (guilty as charged). Mark Walton, a spokesperson for Roomzzz, said:

“Our research shows that free Wi-Fi is paramount to guests, because without it, they are unable to check email, stay in touch with family and friends over social networks, check the news and, most importantly according to the research, read the weather forecast for where they are staying.”

Yes, according to the study, hotel guests said that they most frequently used the Wi-Fi to check the weather in their location. A quarter of respondents said that they ignored the television and used the Wi-Fi to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime or other streaming services.

Those surveyed also listed Wi-Fi as the second item on their wish lists, right behind getting a free room upgrade. But Wi-Fi outranked having a room with a view (if you’re staring at the lush landscapes of Downton Abbey, who cares what’s outside your window?). That data echoes what TripAdvisor discovered in its own recent TripBarometer survey of more than 44,000 travelers and hoteliers. According to that research, 46% said that in-room Wi-Fi was a “must have” amenity and that they would look for alternate accommodations if it was not available. More than a quarter (26%) specified that they required super fast Wi-Fi in their hotels.

Guests who responded to the Roomzzz survey overwhelmingly (61%) said that they felt “bored, lonely and cut off from the real world” if they couldn’t get online, while 10% said that they would go into an all-out panic without an internet connection. But a sliver of those surveyed (10%) said that they would be “relieved” if their hotel did not offer in-room Wi-Fi.

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Airlines line up for rights to fly to Cuba

U.S. carriers appear set for a dogfight over newly opened flight rights to Havana, but their interest in other Cuban destinations appears to be lukewarm.

Airlines had until the close of business on Wednesday to apply to the U.S. Department of Transportation for the U.S.-Cuba flight rights. That comes after a February agreementpaved the way for the first regularly scheduled, non-charter passenger airline flights between the nations in five decades. The pact gives U.S. airlines access to 110 daily flights to Cuba.

But only 20 of those will be allowed to go to Havana, Cuba’s capital and most high-profile destination. And those routes are in high demand.

LISTHere are the Cuba routes U.S. airlines want

American Airlines alone has requested 14 daily flights to Havana plus two additional weekend-only flights. That’s more than any other carrier. Close behind was JetBlue, which proposed 12. Southwest had proposed nine. Delta and small regional carrier Silver Airways each requested the equivalent of five daily round-trip flights to Havana.

Alaska Airlines, which was one of the first to go public with its Cuba plans, proposed two daily round-trip flights between Havana and Los Angeles. Spirit hadn’t yet revealed its plans, though it was expected to request flights to Havana, too.

One surprisingly robust bid for Havana flights came from Denver-based low-cost carrier Frontier, which is seeking rights to fly three daily round-trip flights to Havana from Miami and one from Denver.

All that indicated a dogfight for Havana flight routes. Combined, U.S. carriers had collectively applied for the equivalent of at least 51 daily flights to Havana. Only 20 are on the table.

Beyond the 20 allocated for Havana, there will be 10 daily flights allowed on routes to each of Cuba’s nine other international airports.

Nearly all of the big carriers applying for Havana flights also sought rights on routes to some of those cities, as well. United and Alaska were among the exceptions, seeking only rights to fly to Havana.

United proposed most of its Havana service would come from its hub at Newark Liberty, where it hopes to operate one daily round-trip flight to Havana with a second daily flight on Saturdays. United would fly only one flight a week to Havana from three other cities, proposing one round trip each Saturday from Chicago O’Hare, Houston Bush Intercontinental and Washington Dulles.

“This is a historic moment for our company, our employees and, most importantly, our customers,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “We want to be the first choice for passengers traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We’re able to offer customers the best access, convenience and connections to and from Havana through our industry-leading global route network, and we’re excited to compete for this important service.”

Before U.S. airlines can begin their flights, their route authority applications must win approval by the DOT. The airlines then must reach service agreements with Cuban aviation authorities. It’s thought that flights under the agreement could begin by this fall.

This country has the world’s best passport (and it’s not the U.S.)

When German citizens say auf Wiedersehen to Germany, they can use their passports for visa-free travel to 177 other countries and territories, making it the most powerful passport in the world. Henley & Partners, a London-based residence and citizenship planning firm, has published its annual Visa Restrictions Index and, for the third straight year, Germany is on top, with visa-free access to 177 out of a possible 218 countries.

After Germany’s burgundy-colored passports, Sweden’s identically hued book is in second place, with visa-free travel to 176 countries. Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are tied for third with 175 countries on their visa-free itineraries. The United States is in fourth place — along with Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands — with access to 174 countries.

Henley & Partners said that the only changes to its inaccurately named Top 10 (which actually includes 28 different countries) was the appearance of Hungary (tied for 10th) and the loss of Malaysia, which slipped to 12th place.

“No country dropped more than three positions, indicating that overall, visa-free access is improving around the world,” Henley & Partners said in a statement.

Several countries, however, did surge to a much-improved ranking this year, including including Palau, which jumped 20 spots; Colombia, which climbed 25; and tiny Timor Leste, which moved from 89th in 2015 to 57th this year.

On the more dismal side of the spectrum, the bottom four countries were unchanged from last year: Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are, according to the Index, “the worst passports in the world.” Afghanistan has been ranked as the worst passport every year since 2010; an Afghani passport only allows visa-free travel to 25 countries.

This is the 11th year that Henley & Partners has published its Visa Restrictions Index, which it produces in partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA). “Visa requirements are an expression of the relationships between individual nations, and generally reflect the relations and status of a country within the international community of nations,” Henley & Partners explains.

Airbus wants to create detachable cabins to board planes faster

Photo credit, Airbus

Airbus might have uncovered the fastest way to board a plane, and definitely the most creative.

According to Wired, Airbus recently filed a patent for a detachable cabin module complete with floor, walls, seats, and even a cargo compartment that would be lowered to the gate so that passengers could board, stow their luggage, and take their seats. Then, the compartment would be lifted and secured back in the frame of the aircraft itself.

The idea is that when the plane arrives at its destination, ground handlers would remove the compartments so that passengers can deplane and immediately reload new compartments that would already be pre-loaded with passengers and cargo.

This “aircraft pod” concept would save time on the ground and boost the amount of hours that planes could be in the sky. Since planes make no money when they are not in the air, boarding and deplaning are key elements in the effort to reduce the precious turnaround time.

Safety concerns of the individual pods are likely to pose hurdles to the idea’s implementation, as is the necessity to rebuild airports to be able to handle such a module. Of course, entirely new planes would have to be designed to handle these detachable cabins, so we doubt this will ever get off the ground. But the concept is pretty awesome.

Yan Baczkowski

China is building the world’s largest airport – too bad New York can’t do the same

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China’s upcoming Daxing District airport in Beijing is intended to eventually take the mantle of the world’s largest airport. While the completion date is still years away, airport officials are beginning to spill the beans on what makes the project so special. Here’s what we know so far:

It’s designed to look like a Phoenix. Iraq-born British architect Zaha Hadid chose the phoenix motif in part to contrast with Beijing’s current dragon-inspired Beijing Capital International Airport airport. The phoenix effect may be lost on those pulling up to the departures curb, but anyone coming in for a landing is sure to spot the firebird in all of its aerial glory.

Service will begin in 2019. According to china.org, 45 million passengers will be served by the airport’s first four runways to open in 2019. By 2025, another two runways will open, bringing the total annual passenger count up to 72 million.

Expansion will make it the world’s largest airport by 2040. Granted, similarly grandiose airport projects in the Middle East — or even London — may knock Beijing off of its perch before it ever stakes its claim to the world’s largest title, but current projections expect the phoenix to process 100 million annual passengers by 2040.

It will be seriously speedy. Customs-to-boarding gate times are set to take just 8 minutes. And the baggage claim process is promised to set travelers back only an additional 13 minutes. Zoom zoom!

It has already been called a Wonder of the Modern World. The Guardian has this “megastructure” on its global watch list, already bestowing the modern marvel title on the new airport.

This does not explain why New York’s La Guardia or JFK airport look and function like something out of the developing world.

Yan Baczkowski

Every precious inch: these airlines offer the most (and least!) legroom

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It won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that not all airplane seating configurations are created equally. But deciphering the differences can sometimes feel like an impossible task when what sets them apart is measured in inches instead of feet. Still, anyone who has ever flown across the Pacific knows that every precious inch matters when buckling into a seat for most of the day. Thanks to a little sleuthing by Condé Nast Traveler, here are the airlines with the most – and least – legroom.

U.S. Carriers with the Most Legroom

  1. JetBlue: The roomiest of the roomiest major American carriers, JetBlue’s main cabin configuration gives passengers a generous (or depressing, depending on your state of mind when reading this) 33 inches of space between seats.
  2. Virgin America, Southwest: Virgin and Southwest round out the top three with 32 inches of pitch, the distance from one seat to another, commonly referred to as legroom.

U.S. Carriers with the Least Legroom

  1. Spirit: The most miserly of the major American airlines, Spirit packs passengers into planes that average just 28 inches of pitch. Worst of all, Spirit’s seats are locked into position and don’t allow passengers to recline.
  2. Frontier: Like Spirit, Frontier crams its cabins full of seats just 28 inches apart, but at least you can recline. Or more likely, you’ll have to recline if the seat just 28 inches from you invades your tight quarters by reclining first.
  3. Allegiant: Pushing back out of the 20’s thankfully, Allegiant’s seats are 30 inches apart.

The remaining major U.S. carriers – American, Delta, United, Alaskan and Hawaiian – all have 31 inches between rows. Though most flights operated by these airlines now include several rows of economy plus seating, where you can pay extra for a few more inches of legroom.

International Carriers with the Most Legroom

  1. Aeromexico: The roomiest coach cabin in all the world, Aeromexico gives passengers a positively plush 34 inches of pitch.
  2. South African Airways: Another surprisingly generous airline, SAA barely trails Aeromexico with 33.5 inches between rows.
  3. Asiana, Air India, Air Tahiti Nui: Tied for third, these three allow passengers to spread out across 33 inches – the same amount of space JetBlue offers.

International Carriers with the Least Legroom

  1. AirBerlin, Austrian Airlines, Aeroflot: The 30 inches of space afforded to passengers aboard flights from these three honestly doesn’t sound so bad after learning about Spirit and Frontier’s 28 inch seats though, does it?

New Florida train service to whisk passengers between Miami and Orlando

A privately owned and operated passenger rail service is on track to begin connecting travelers in four major Florida cities by mid-2017.

Today, All Aboard Florida is slated to reveal that the new express inter-city train travel service, which will cost more than $3 billion to build, will be called theBrightline.

Brightline trains will connect Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando along a 235-mile route. The stretch from Miami to Orlando will last three hours, comparable to what it takes to get to the airport, go through security and fly, developers say.

The trains, designed by the Rockwell Group, are being built in Sacramento by Siemens. Construction has begun on stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and on connecting urban centers that developers hope will become dining and shopping destinations. Another station will be next to Orlando International Airport.

All Aboard Florida is a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, which is involved in a range of infrastructure, transportation and real estate businesses. The project is being funded by private investors through the issuance of $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds and directly from the parent company. The company expects to become profitable in the first couple of years as its adds more trains and ridership increases.

All Aboard Florida and tourism officials say the trains and their stations could transform travel throughout Florida, one of the country’s most populous states. Providing trains as an alternative could ease congestion on the roads and alleviate pressure on crowded airports.

“Half of our business is international,” says William Talbert, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. “To connect Miami and those other three communities by train makes it convenient, affordable, clean and safe to travel. It gives the visitor options that we haven’t had before.”

Trains were the primary mode of transportation in the USA until after World War II, when cars and airlines took over the roads and skies. Federally funded Amtrak has remained the predominant interstate passenger train system, but it does not offer the kind of high-speed service found in Europe and Asia.

The closest thing the USA has to high-speed trains is Amtrak’s Acela on the northeast corridor, which can go as fast as 150 mph. Brightline trains will not be high-speed, but its express service will be able to go up to 125 mph.

High-speed rail “takes more money and fully dedicated track and electrification,” says Andy Kunz, president and CEO of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association.

There’s been a recent resurgence in interest in trains, particularly among younger travelers, says Jim Wallington, a train expert at America by Rail, which promotes train travel.

“This younger generation is less car prone,” he says. “They are not buying cars like we used to, and they are demanding that there be alternate transportation.”

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill proposed billions of dollars in funding to create a true high-speed rail system across the nation. His efforts have stalled amid political opposition.

Privately led efforts are underway to create high-speed rail systems in Texas and between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. A publicly led high-speed rail system is under construction in California. That will eventually connect Los Angeles and San Francisco in less than three hours.

Unlike other privately led projects, All Aboard Florida won’t lease rails. Its sister company, Florida East Coast Railway, owns the existing freight corridor. All Aboard Florida owns the right of way to run passenger rail along that corridor. In some areas, the company is installing second tracks that it owns.

“Every metropolitan region across America is highly congested, and it’s all continuing to grow worse as our population continues to grow,” says the High Speed Rail Association’s Kunz. “They’re really not building any more major highways or new roads, so this leads to ever-growing congestion. The only way out of this downward spiral is to move thousands of people out of cars and into fast trains.”

Mike Reininger, president of Brightline, says it’s not just about speed. The experience matters, too. The company plans to blend train travel and hospitality in a way that hasn’t been done since the heyday of passenger rail service in the 1940s and ’50s.

“Everything from how you communicate with us — whether on the computer or mobile device — to the experience in our stations that we are building and operating, … the seats, the tables, the bathrooms, the food and beverage are one continuous experience bathed in this hospitality overlay,” he says.

The company is still working out specifics of what the experience will be like. But there will be free Wi-Fi and multiple power outlets at every seat. Reserved seating will be available in various configurations, including single seats and tables for groups of four. Ticket prices have not been set.

Various food and beverage options will be available both at the stations and on the train, including grab-and-go meals. The service will be pet-friendly, allowing travel with dogs and cats.

Even the train’s look is intended to bring the fun back into travel. In a nod to its name, each train will be painted in one of five different bright colors — red, orange, green, blue or pink — and a yellow locomotive will lead the way.

Amtrak makes stops in the cities Brightline will serve, but Reininger says his company will provide more frequent stops. Also, he says, Amtrak trains typically run at slower speeds in Florida.

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods says the company would welcome Brightline’s debut.

“Expansion of intercity passenger rail is a positive step to ensure the mobility and connectivity needed to drive the country’s economic growth,” she says.

Not everyone is on board with the new train service, however. Citizens Against Rail Expansion, a coalition of residents and community leaders in South Florida, argues that the rail system will compromise public safety. A number of hospitals along the route are on one side of the tracks while first responders are on the other, says Stephen Ryan, an attorney representing CARE.

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 Oyster.com 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.”