Tag: yanbaczkowski

The TripIt App Will Now Tell You When to Leave for the Airport

aerial-shot-lax-airport-gettyimages-567874077It won’t tell you what to pack, though—sorry.

The app makes it easy (and secure) to store important travel info like copies of your passport; organize all your itineraries and confirmation documents in one—beautiful—dashboard; and snag open seats on the last flight out. As of today, the app has a “Go Now” feature for TripIt Pro users that takes some of the stress out of getting to the airport.

“Go Now” suggests—surprise!—the best time to leave for the airport based on a traveler’s current location, flight status, and local traffic conditions, and then reminds the user when it’s time to leave for an upcoming flight. Those using the app can even view a countdown clock, which shows them how much time they have left to leave for the airport. (And here we thought the app was supposed to help decrease stress.) The feature becomes available 24 hours before a domestic flight, and uses the standard guidance of arriving 90 minutes before your flight takes off.

Courtesy TripIt

Why manually set an alarm on your phone when TripIt will take care of that for you?

TripIt is available on iOS and Android, and while the app organizes travel plans in one place for free, a subscription is required for TripIt Pro ($49/year after a free 30-day trial), which offers additional features like refund notifications, real-time flight alerts, point tracking, and the “Go Now” functionality.

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Five travel services worth paying for

When it comes to travel, most of us are looking to save money, but what we should be looking to do is save time and improve our experience. Sometimes it’s worth it to shell out a little more for extras that can make travel easier, faster and better. From services that will help you speed through the airport to those that will allow you to snag the best dinner reservation, here are five extras worth paying for:

Passport and visa services: Frequent international travel requires visas, which mandate numerous consulate visits and take up hours of precious work time — and that’s not including all the time spent muddling through paperwork to get everything in line to apply. The same goes for renewing a passport. The express way to get it all done is to hand off all the work to visa services that are registered with the U.S. State Department. It might cost a couple hundred dollars, but you’ll save yourself a ton of stress, and for some countries you can have a visa in hand within 24 hours. Some road warriors consider the arrangement fundamental for a business traveler.

Global Entry: Once you have the fast lane back into the U.S. you never want to go back, and fortunately with Global Entry you never have to. Apply and pay the one-time $100 fee and (after an interview) you’re (hopefully) approved. Also, Global Entry automatically includes TSA PreCheck, which allows you to go through airport security with way less hassle. If you were thinking of applying for PreCheck, which costs $85, you might as well pay the extra $15 for Global Entry, which allows you to painlessly go through immigration when you return to the U.S. from an international trip.

VIP airport services: The secret’s out that frequent travel isn’t all that glamorous, no matter which Instagram filter you slap on it. But one way to feel like a jetsetter is to hire some VIP treatment — Gateway Meet & Greet is one example — that can get you to and from your destination quickly (including expedited check-in) and extras like VIP lounge access.

Travel agent: Even though these days travelers have the power to do all the trip research, planning and booking on their own, travel agents are still the only ones who can access or create special deals in many cases. They are working and interacting with key tourism industry players day in and day out, so they’ve got the relationships and leverage to bargain. Plus, travel agents have insiders’ knowledge that can result in getting you access to destination highlights you wouldn’t otherwise know existed.

Travel concierge: A travel agent can get you there, taking care of flights and hotels, and a concierge can take you the rest of the way. There are all types of travel concierges from cultural to luxury, but most specialize in getting you into a destination with tours (whether they lead them themselves or arrange them), tickets to shows, dinner reservations and all the fun stuff tailored to your interests. A good one will get you local prices when they otherwise might have been inflated, and take care of all the logistics. And with more people going the route of vacation rentals and opting for lodging that doesn’t come ready-equipped with concierge services, this service can be especially helpful.

First Class has come a long way

Image result for first class TWA

 

For most travelers, flying isn’t a pleasant experience – long lines, terminals and concourses well past their prime, and of course, old and dirty planes. As you sit in your cramped seat with limited recline, listening to flight attendants directing you to push your seat back upright, stow your tray table, and turn off your in-flight entertainment, you wish there was a better way to fly. Well there is… except most of the general public can only dream about the unbelievable ways of air travel we’re about to describe.

The Etihad First Apartment

Emirates Airlines, based in Dubai, is regarded by many as the most luxurious carrier in the world. Founded in 1985, it is also one of the largest airlines both by passengers carried and by revenue, as well as the largest operator of the Airbus A380 – the world’s largest passenger airliner. Noticing a trend? Meanwhile, Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, is one of the newest operators of the Airbus A380, but sent shockwaves through the industry when details of their new premium class designs on the flagship Airbus were released. Their top tier product, The Residence by Etihad, is perhaps the most luxurious and over-the-top product in commercial aviation today.

Despite their airport hubs being only an hour apart from each other and located in the same country, both airlines have created some of the most eye-popping First Class seats in the world. Perhaps there’s a bit of sibling rivalry boiling under the cordial exterior?

Emirates Airbus A380

So now let’s get to the heart of the matter, the crux of the issue, the meat and potatoes… who truly has the best First Class experience – Emirates or Etihad? In order to settle this burning age-old question once and for all, we sent two lucky LoungeBuddies to the Middle East (at their own expense, of course) to uncover the answer.

SEATS

Arguably the most important aspect of international First Class is the seat. Forget the cramped and uncomfortable torture devices found at the back of the bus, since Emirates First Class is configured with only four suites per row. Compare that to the 10-across seating typically found in the Airbus A380 Economy cabin (though in all fairness, if you’re going to fly coach, the A380 has some of the widest Economy seats in the sky).

Emirates First Class Suites

Etihad, having balked at the thought of placing four First Class suites in one row (the horror), instead decided to configure their cabin with only two First Class suites per row. Much better, no?

Etihad First Apartments

Both are equipped with shoulder-height privacy doors that can easily be used to block out other meddlesome First Class passengers, making it feel like you truly have your own private room in the sky. No more having to deal with unnecessary human contact.

Etihad First Apartment Suite

On Emirates, you can even electronically control the privacy doors from a tablet at your seat – because using arm strength to close your suite doors is just so 2008. I mean, who would want to have to put on slippers, get up, and shut the doors manually when you’ve finally gotten comfortable in your First Class bed? Seriously.

Emirates Tablet

The Etihad Suite is equipped with Poltrona Frau leather, the same material found on high-end automobiles such as Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. With both a seat and an ottoman as wide as a park bench, it’s easy to throw a party in your suite with other First Class passengers. In the event of turbulence, there’s no need to stop as both seating surfaces are equipped with seat belts.

Etihad First Apartment

Winner: Etihad

Clearly, two suites per row is much better than four, and most First Class travelers need the extra room to spread out… particularly if you’ve invited a guest (or four) to join you in your suite. Even Emirates’ automated privacy doors can’t challenge that.

BED

On Emirates, the seat turns into a fully flat bed with a 180-degree recline, again, at the touch of a button on your tablet.

Emirates First Class Bed

Etihad takes it to the next level by creating an entirely separate bed using the ottoman in your suite, allowing the bed to be made without having to sacrifice your seat. And if there’s one thing First Class passengers hate, it’s sacrifice. If you have a significant other traveling with you, certain rows of the First Class cabin allow you to lower the divider located between suites. The one thing you can’t do is create a full double bed, as the partition retracts only near the head. If you truly desire a double bed, you’ll need to upgrade to The Residence by Etihad for only an extra $10,000 USD.

Etihad First Apartment Bed

Both First Class seats are impeccably designed, although they differ in significant ways. Imagine rich gold plating, plenty of bling, and heck, even a small table lamp on the console of your suite. That would be what you’d expect and receive on Emirates.

Emirates First Class Suite

Etihad, on the other hand, uses refined Arabic decor to subtly include their heritage, while also incorporating the most modern Western design elements.

Etihad First Apartment Bed

If you want to fly like a wealthy Arab Sheikh, Emirates would probably be your style. Otherwise, you’d be better off sticking with Etihad, which has a more subtle, but sophisticated, suite design.

Winner: Etihad

What kind of First Class passenger wants to get up to wait as their bed is made?

FOOD

When it comes to airline food, few of us would say they enjoy pre-cooked meals served on plastic trays. For those traveling in international First Class, however, it’s a completely different story. Emirates and Etihad offer meals like you would find in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Caviar and Arabic mezze are staples of the Emirates menu, in addition to a list of items stretching as long as the menu at the Cheesecake Factory (but with edible food instead).

Emirates First Class Caviar Course

You won’t find prices or any number signs listed beside the menu descriptions either. Everything is complimentary, as expected in First Class. Etihad takes the concept of airplane food even further by having a dedicated chef on board. Imagine a gourmet meal, customized to your liking, presented on fine bone china, served with premium alcohol, on a plane, in the sky, rocketing at 550 miles per hour. Truly mind-boggling, to say the least.

Emirates First Class Arabic Mezze Course

One of Etihad’s specialities is their “From the Grill” selection. Instead of mystery meat, First Class guests have a choice of five meat options, including lamb shank, rib eye steak, and a seafood option. Want fries on a plane? You can have that too. There are also six side options and four selections of sauces, making it a total of 120 possible combinations in all.

Etihad First Apartment “From The Grill” Selection

Care for something on the sweeter side? Whether it’s ice cream, pudding, or cake, Etihad has you covered – like decadent raspberry sauce.

Etihad Dessert Course

Winner: Etihad

No discerning First Class passenger wants to eat an identical cookie-cutter meal as the rest of the cabin. Etihad’s in-flight chef concept makes it easy for you to customize your meal.

SHOWERS

After collapsing from the weight of your First Class meal and plenty of alcohol too, you wake up covered in First Class grime (yes, it’s a real thing). Think unfinished glass of Dom, crumbs from your creme brûlée, and a few stains from that 40-year aged port you were dying to try. What better way to wash off the mess than with a hot shower? Both Emirates and Etihad have two showers at the front of their cabins. However, in the all-important category of shower-to-passenger ratio, Emirates wins, with one shower for every seven passengers, while Etihad only provides one shower for every nine passengers. It looks like Etihad had to make the difficult decision of having First Class passengers potentially wait for a shower, all because The Residence royalty needed their own private shower.

Etihad Bathroom And Shower

Most travelers who’ve flown in both cabins believe that Emirates’ showers are more pleasant, with adjustable heated floors, and a panoramic wallpaper view of the Dubai skyline. There are few things more novel on a plane than having the ability to dance around in a space big enough to do cartwheels, in front of the Dubai Skyline, in your bathrobe!

Emirates Shower Spa

Both airlines have everything you need for the complete shower experience, including toiletries and a hair dryer. Emirates has two varieties of their Timeless Spa toiletries – relax and revive – depending on the time zone you fall into (which, incidentally, is also a critical factor for deciding on when to start drinking). For those First Class passengers with discriminating taste, Etihad offers New York City-based Le Labo toiletries.

Winner: Emirates First Class passengers obviously need their space while showering. For that, Emirates takes the win.

ONBOARD LOUNGE

Now fresh from your in-flight shower, you suddenly have a desire to socialize (or empathize) with your unfortunate friends who are experiencing the horrors of Business Class. While you can reach them through the in-seat chat, Emirates and Etihad also makes it possible for passengers from Business and First Class to congregate in a social area with no Economy plebeians to contaminate the refined environment. In case your suite wasn’t big enough, the lounge should give you ample room to stretch your legs.

Both Etihad and Emirates situate their lounges on the upper deck. The Etihad Bar takes a page out of luxury hotel lobbies. Hence, its designation as “The Lobby”.

Etihad “The Lobby” Lounge

With ornate seating situated about a round table, you can chat with friends or plug in your headphones and watch in-flight entertainment from your seat. Sadly, even in First Class, you’ll have to have your drinks refilled from the display case, rather than an actual bar area.

Etihad “The Lobby” Lounge

Luckily, if you prefer a more traditional bar experience, you’ll find it on Emirates. The Emirates Bar epitomizes the golden age of travel, when Boeing 747s had onboard lounges (sans piano player and cigarette smoke) with extensive seating, elegant lighting, and a horseshoe shaped bar to allow for passengers to mingle. Worried that the booze selection won’t cut it? Just tell your bartender what you want from the First Class menu and he or she will bring it out to serve you (and perhaps your new BFF from Business Class).

Emirates First And Business Class Bar

Winner: Emirates

First Class passengers who need a place to stretch out want a different environment from their seat. Emirates achieves this atmosphere with their onboard lounge, featuring comfortable seating, cocktails, snacks, and even a flight attendant manning the bar.

ALCOHOL

Although the UAE is a country based on Islamic Law with stricter alcohol regulations than Europe and North America, Emirates and Etihad both have complimentary top-shelf alcohol for those who are above the age of 18. Not a fan of the swill that domestic carriers often serve? Both airlines offer a wide range of New and Old World wines, with options from the United States, France, Australia, and more. Each selection is printed on the wine list handed to you at the beginning of the flight, along with a description longer than anything you’d care to read once you’ve had a few glasses. For those who do enjoy excruciatingly detailed wine descriptions, including grape varieties and their region of origin, feel free to savor every printed word on the elegant menu.

Emirates First Class White Wine List

If other types of alcohol are your fancy, feel free to choose from a vast range of spirits, liquor, and champagne, include Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Dom Perignon, and Bollinger La Grande Année Vintage. Worried about plastic cups diluting the taste? No need to worry, because proper crystal glasses are always served.

Etihad Bollinger La Grande Année Vintage Champagne

Both airlines offer great alcohol, but in terms of brand and cost, Emirates takes the cake, with plenty more drink options breaking the $100 USD per bottle ceiling. They are also the only airline serving Hennessy Paradis Cognac in First Class. With a retail price hovering around $700 per bottle, it is the most expensive liquor available on any carrier – equivalent in price to what most Economy passengers pay for their entire return ticket. I’m sure we all have the same opinion on which option is better.

Don’t want to wait for your drink? First Class passengers on Emirates can help themselves to all the alcohol they can drink from the First Class bar.

Emirates First Class Bar

Winner: Emirates

As a First Class passenger, only the most expensive and premium alcohol will do.

ENTERTAINMENT

On those 13+ hour flights from North America to the Middle East, having to sit in a metal tube gets boring fast. If having a gourmet meal, socializing at the onboard bar, and having a shower isn’t enough, First Class passengers also have fantastic entertainment options to whittle down the hours of their flight.

Both Etihad and Emirates First Class suites on the Airbus A380 have screens at least twice the size of those at the back of the bus, featuring a wide variety of content from around the world. If that isn’t enough, you can surf the web with your smartphone or laptop using their satellite-based WiFi systems. Emirates has gone the route of making WiFi affordable for everyone – free for the first 10 MB and only $1 USD for 500 MB of data. Unfortunately, this also makes the internet connection virtually unusable due to the sheer number of passengers logged on to the network.

Emirates WiFi Connection

If you just want to disconnect from the online world, Etihad has the superior entertainment system. The screen not only pulls back to let you watch TV in bed, but it also has split-screen capabilities if you want to mix both work and pleasure by streaming two kinds of content at once.

Etihad First Apartment Entertainment

On top of that, Etihad has two touchscreen controllers for the in-flight entertainment, allowing you to choose your next selection while still watching your current movie. With the other controller, you can also watch the skies with the tail camera, or track your position with the interactive flight map.

Etihad First Apartment Multiple Screens

Winner: Etihad

Being able to watch content on four different screens while surfing the web will definitely entertain any First Class passenger.

WHO’S THE WINNER?

With the list of First Class components we’ve evaluated, Etihad wins in four of the categories, while Emirates wins in three. Ultimately, it’s a close race. If we examine each specific category, however, the results are more telling. Etihad has the better suite, bed, entertainment, and food – all the essential components of a flight from a typical perspective. However, Emirates has a better shower, onboard lounge, and alcohol – things that display the full extravagance of being in First Class. At the end of the day, both products are luxurious and over-the-top in their own unique way, and are sure to satisfy the sophisticated taste of any First Class traveler.

HOW CAN I TRY EMIRATES AND ETIHAD FIRST CLASS?

Thinking about purchasing a First Class ticket on Emirates or Etihad out-of-pocket? Typical Dubai or Abu Dhabi to London flights will set you back approximately $8,000 – $9,000 USD minimum. Not part of the 1% but still want to experience life at the nose of the plane? A much more cost effective way, of course, would be to use miles and points.

For Emirates, the best way to redeem for First Class flights is through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. With no fuel surcharges to pay for and extremely reasonable award charts, it takes some flying on Alaska Airlines or a few approved Alaska Airlines credit card applications to earn enough miles for a shower on Emirates First Class! Another redemption option is to transfer your Starwood Preferred Guest points to Japan Airlines Mileage Bank, and redeem those miles for Emirates First Class. Japan Airlines has a distance-based award chart and no fuel surcharges. However, note that redemptions cannot be made online. Want to learn about more crazy ways to use Starwood Preferred Guest points? Read our blog post 10 Insane Ways To Blow One Million Starwood Points.

Luckily, Etihad is a partner of American Airlines, and AAdvantage miles can be redeemed directly for Etihad First Class flights. With Middle East to Europe awards in First Class starting at just 40,000 AAdvantage miles one-way, it doesn’t get much cheaper to experience your own private suite in the sky. The best ways to obtain AAdvantage miles are by flying AA or a oneworld partner, through signing up for and receiving credit card bonuses, or by transferring them from the Starwood Preferred Guest program.

Boeing readies high-flying celebration for 100th anniversary

WASHINGTON — When Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg heads to the Farnborough Airshow near London next month, he’ll tackle his usual tasks: trying to win new airplane orders and more aerospace work for the U.S. manufacturing giant.

He will have an additional mission at this year’s show, where he’ll help lead the centennial celebration for the iconic U.S. aerospace giant launched by William Boeing in 1916.

“Having this role as we approach our centennial, you have this sense of humbleness about the significance of the company,” Muilenburg said in an interview with USA TODAY. “You think about what happened over the last 100 years. We went literally from walking on Earth to walking on the moon … from riding horses to flying in airplanes and spaceships.”

That legacy will be something Boeing puts on display at Farnborough, where the company’s “birthday” fortuitously falls in the middle of the biennial airshow. The show, which alternates annually with its sister show in Paris, is one of the most important events in aviation.

Even before Farnborough, Boeing had kicked off a year-long promotional blitz for the anniversary of its founding date: July 15, 1916.

Farnborough organizers unveiled an aerial display that pays homage to Boeing’s roots, and flights by the B-17 bomber and P-51 Mustang are likely. Boeing might send its new 737 MAX for what would be its debut appearance at a major airshow.

That the Farnborough Airshow also will mark its 100-year anniversary in 2016 will add to the festive theme  this year.

Still business to do at Farnborough

Centennials aside, the show will feature many of its usual story lines.

There will be displays of military and civilian aircraft and technology, allowing manufacturers to show off their latest and greatest products to prospective big-ticket buyers.

On the commercial aviation front, rivals Boeing and Airbus will seek airline orders — and headlines — for their passenger planes as they battle for supremacy in that market.

Though the centennial events may help lighten the vibe at the airshow, it’s still all about competition, said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Virginia-based Teal Group.

“Frankly, what matters more is booking business,” Aboulafia said. “It’s been a long time since airshows were over the top. There’s a lot more business being done than mere parties.”

In a year in which Boeing hopes to leverage its centennial, Aboulafia warned Boeing’s buzz could be dampened by what’s expected to be a weak year for overall orders at the airshow.

“This does not appear to be a great year to book business,” Aboulafia said. “We might get fewer orders than deliveries, which would be the first time in five or six years that’s happened. The positive historical news might be a little bit sidelined by concerns about the market itself.”

Boeing’s centennial in the spotlight

Regardless of how plane orders stack up, 2016 could be a difficult year for rivals to wrest the spotlight from Boeing as it celebrates its centennial.

Launched by William Boeing in 1916, the company has become the face of American aviation, growing into a global behemoth that’s  one of the USA’s largest exporters.

The Boeing name graces flying machines such as the new-age Dreamliner — the company’s latest commercial passenger aircraft that revolutionized the use of composites and has since opened  dozens of  airline routes around the world.

There’s the 747 — the world’s first jumbo jet — that may be the one single plane with which Boeing is most associated. And the 737, the best-selling commercial aircraft in history — and one that’s still going strong.

On the defense side, there are a range of military aircraft in Boeing’s portfolio, some of which will be on display at Farnborough.

“It’s a global company,” Aboulafia said. “Everyone thinks in terms of an American icon, but it’s a global company. Sending that message of being an international aircraft producer is very important at shows like this.”

Boeing’s century-long rise to become one of the world’s pre-eminent manufacturers is something that stokes pride in Muilenburg, who started at the company as an intern in 1985.

“You think about the transformation that happened along the way,” Muilenburg said, “the introduction of the commercial jet age, the introduction of all-new composite aircraft. These transformational things are extraordinary events and things that we’ve been involved in.”

Boeing faces its own transformational challenges as it enters its second century.

The company’s defense business remains important, even as commercial aircraft sales account for an increasingly larger chunk of Boeing’s business.

Elsewhere, Boeing is aggressively courting new business in outer space, which includes everything from rocket and satellite technology to deep space exploration and even space tourism.

“I’m not sure how many people in the country know it, but we are today building the rocket that’s going to take the first human to Mars,” Muilenburg said enthusiastically. “It’s about 50% bigger than the Saturn V that took humans to the moon.”

Muilenburg predicted “low-Earth-orbit space travels … will be a groundbreaker to a broader low-Earth-orbit market as more destinations evolve.”

“These could be tourism destinations (or) industrial destinations where you can take advantage of zero-gravity manufacturing,” he said. “Efficient low-Earth-orbit space travel will become a real bona fide marketplace. And we aim to lead in that marketplace.”

Most Americans probably associate Boeing with its commercial airplanes — the ones that fly them to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving or across the Atlantic for an exotic summer vacation. That remains the top overall anchor for the company.

“Our commercial airplane business today is 60% to 70% of our business base,” Muilenburg said. “It’s got a great historic past and huge growth opportunities ahead. That is at our very core, and we’ll continue to build and leverage that.”

Let them eat Cake!!!!

Emirates has come under fire for offering a cake as compensation to an elderly disabled passenger who was left without a wheelchair at Hong Kong airport and had to struggle to make her own way to arrivals.

Marian Robinson, 77, and her husband Herbert, 79, (pictured here) flew with Emirates last week from London to Hong Kong, via Dubai, to visit their daughter, Lindsey Gordon.

Mr Robinson had pre-booked wheelchair assistance for his wife, who cannot walk more than a few steps unaided due to several illnesses.

Although a wheelchair was provided for the Dubai stop-over, there was no wheelchair on arrival in Hong Kong.

“They waited on the aircraft until they were told to get off, then they waited outside the aircraft and nobody came,” explained their daughter.

“The captain kindly tried to help and asked a passing porter to assist, but he declined. I was waiting at arrivals for over two hours, terrified that they had somehow been stranded in Dubai.

“Eventually, after much trauma, they managed to find their way through the airport and I found them in the middle of the concourse more than two hours after the aircraft landed. There were severely traumatised and confused as to what had happened.”

When Mrs Gordon complained to the airline, requesting that her parents could perhaps be upgraded on their return journey by way of compensation, she received an email from customer services saying this wasn’t possible due to policy.

Instead, she was told: “We can surely book a complimentary cake for them. Let me know if I should book the cake for them?”

Mrs Gordon said she was shocked by the response.

“I hardly think a cake makes up for what my parents went through, and the real issue is that nobody explained why the wheelchair wasn’t provided and they still haven’t. Mum and dad had been travelling for a total of 20 hours. My mum can only walk a few steps, even with a walking stick, so it was a massive effort for her to get from the aircraft to the arrivals hall which is quite a distance and involves a train and several escalators.

“To make matter worse, when my parents checked in for the return flight I told them what had happened on the inward journey and the check-in clerk laughed. I had to inform her that it wasn’t actually funny.”

Emirates said it was investigating the case and issued an apology.

“Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of Emirates Flight Crew to help Mr and Mrs Robinson on the ground, adequate assistance from the Hong Kong airport wheelchair handling team did not materialise in time. This service is operated by third parties on behalf of all airlines,” it added.

“The comfort and safety of our passengers is our priority, and we are truly sorry that we did not meet Mr and Mrs Robinson’s requirements  on this occasion. Our Customer Services team in Dubai made sure that the wheelchair assistance was provided for their return journey.

“We take all complaints very seriously and are currently investigating Mr and Mrs Robinson’s case to establish how this may have happened.”

The incredible shrinking hotel room

Hotels are thinking big by going as small as they can.

Independent hoteliers to big-name brands like Marriott are getting into the “micro-hotel” trend. The hotels have tiny rooms — think as small as 50 square feet — but big public spaces that appeal to social travelers.

“It is a slightly literal example of the ‘living like a local’ trend — where an apartment is often just a place to sleep, and the public spaces are where one spends the majority of their time,” says Gray Shealy, executive director of the Master’s of Hospitality Management Program at Georgetown University.

Micro-hotels first popped up in urban centers such as Japan and New York Citywhere real estate is particularly expensive. Packing more rooms into a property made financial sense.

In the USA, micro-hotel chains such as Pod, Yotel and CitizenM are expanding to other cities like Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. These are destinations where travelers tend to look for great value and smart design.

Modus Hotels, a Washington, D.C.-based hospitality company, plans to open a Pod Hotel and the Hotel Hive, both micro-hotels, next year in the nation’s capital. Marriott will introduce 10 Moxy hotels next year in major metropolitan locations such as New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle and San Diego. Commune Hotels and Resorts will launch its micro-hotel brand tommie early next year in New York City, with other domestic and international destinations to follow.

“These are hotels in every city that are 1) unusual, 2) reasonably-priced, and 3) cater to modern, working, frequent travelers,” says Garth Holsinger, who has stayed at Yotels many times.

The micro-hotels are particularly appealing to Millennial travelers, who are starting to travel more and spend more.

“We are focused on the Millennial-minded consumer, with an emphasis on style, attitude and design at an economical value,” says Vicki Poulos, global brand director for Moxy.

Some travelers don’t necessarily agree that the comfort level equals that of regular hotels, but room rates can make staying at micro-hotels worthwhile.

“At first, it is entirely novel,” says Diana Edelman, who writes a travel blog called d travels ’round and stayed at the Yotel at London’s Gatwick airport. “But then reality hits that it is nearly impossible to open a suitcase in the room without hitting your head on the bed’s ‘roof’ or that you are showering next to the toilet and sink.”

“The room is tiny,” she says. “And I mean tiny, so for people who don’t like small spaces, it can be claustrophobic.”

USA TODAY took a look at a few micro-hotels in New York. Here’s what we found.

Pod Hotels

Hoteliers Richard Born and Ira Drukier introduced the micro-hotel trend to New York City in 2007 with the debut of Pod 51 in Midtown East. Pod 39 opened in June 2012 with a rooftop lounge, a communal play room where guests can engage in ping pong matches, and a Salvation Taco restaurant that on an early Friday evening drew as many or more young locals as guests. Pod 51 has an outdoor garden area and weekly happy hours.

“My target audience when we built it was the very next stage after you build a youth hostel,” Born says.

Rates start at $89, a mere fraction of what hotel rooms in New York normally cost. The smallest room is 72 square feet. The largest is 200 square feet.

Some rooms have bunk beds, each with their own plugs and TVs with headsets that were made for airplanes. Cubby holes provide storage space.

“It’s designed for intelligent people who understand the quality of design of the room and avail themselves of the technology,” Born says. “The rooms are very well thought-out meaning there’s a space to put your bag, there’s a space to put your things, there’s a plug wherever you want to plug in your device.”

The Jane

Once home to survivors of the Titanic, this hotel in the West Village feels more like a cruise ship or a train with sleeper cabins. Rooms have single beds or bunk beds.

In the rooms with bunk beds, “there’s two of everything: two TVs, two waters, two bathrobes, two slippers,” says Courtney Garron, a manager at the hotel.

Guests staying in the smallest room, the 50-square-foot Standard Cabin, share communal bathrooms.

There are built-in drawers and a luggage rack, but Garron acknowledges that sometimes people traveling with too much run out of space.

“We hold people’s bags,” she says.

The Standard and Bunk Cabins are 7 feet long and the beds are around 6 feet long, large enough for an average-sized person but perhaps a tight fit for someone taller.

Larger Captain’s Cabins with their own bathrooms are available as well. And with prices starting at $99 a night, upgrading to the larger cabin would still run you less than a regular hotel nearby.

An historic ballroom with a bar, lounge and mezzanine plus a rooftop with views of the Hudson River provide entertainment for those who want to get out of their rooms.

Yotel

In addition to the Yotel New York, travelers can try out this micro-hotel in London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports. Expansion plans are in the works for Boston, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Miami, Dubai and Singapore.

The smallest room, found at the airport locations, is 75 square feet. Rates at the New York location average around $200. Travelers can book at the airport locations in four-hour blocks.

With rooms that small, some features have to be customized. Yotel recently introduced the adjustable “SmartBed by YOTEL” created in partnership with Serta. Think of a Barcalounger for beds. Guests can convert the bed into a sofa for TV watching or working on their laptops.

Having trouble sleeping? The Yotel channel broadcasts a “Yawn” video to help induce sleep. The bizarre video of a man yawning is effective at making viewers want to close their eyes.

And in a nod to how important technology is to the modern-day traveler, the Yotel New York has a YOBOT on full display. The automated luggage storage and retrieval facility provides entertainment while taking care of luggage.

CitizenM

Rooms at CitizenM in Manhattan’s Theater District feature interesting technology such as a digital artwork display that lets guests select whichever contemporary piece of art they want to stare at.

Samsung touch-screen MoodPads control the TV, music, window blinds, temperature and alarm. Wi-Fi is complimentary.

All rooms at CitizenM are 170 square feet, and each has a king-sized bed that is about 6′ 6” long. Rates start at $199 in New York.

There are five European properties in addition to the New York CitizenM. Plans are in the works to open more in the United Kingdom, France, Taiwan and USA.

“Our travelers appreciate an inspiring environment, a place where they really connect to the atmosphere, a great sleep experience … without having to pay the high rates of a typical boutique hotel,” says Noreen Chadha, commercial director, USA, for CitizenM.

Yet the New York property has the vibe of a boutique hotel. A hip bar plays curated music. A shop features books by Mendo, a popular Dutch store. And a rooftop bar called Cloud Bar has a fireplace and outdoor terrace. For now, it’s only open to guests.

Moxy

Marriott’s brand for Millennials debuted in September 2014 with the opening of the Moxy Milan. More than 150 properties will be added to the collection in the next 10 years.

What can guests expect when Moxy finally arrives in the USA next year?

Public spaces with four zones: a welcome area, library and plug-in area, food and beverage outlets, and lounges.

Bedrooms, on average 186 square feet, have an open storage concept with a peg wall. A platform bed has “underbed” motion sensor lighting. The bathroom has a one-compartment layout with a shower and vanity.

There’s free Wi-Fi and keyless entry with your mobile phone.

Guests can buy food at Moxy’s 24/7 self-service station. The bar is full-service.

The Guestbook is a digital platform that collects stories, pictures, and videos from travelers. They are broadcast on the website, Instagram and on hotel screens.

Air India allegedly grounds 130 flight attendants for being too fat

Tawheed Manzoor/Flickr

The golden age of flying may be long in the past, but at least we’ve also seen the end of days when flight attendants are judged on their bodies, right? Well, not exactly.

According to the Telegraph, this week Air India dismissed 130 cabin crew duty for having body mass index (BMI) levels beyond “normal.” For Air India, a “normal” BMI for a female flight attendant is between 18 and 22, and 18 to 25 for a man, which is more or less the same assessment as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This move did not come out of the blue. About six months ago, the directorate-general of civil aviation asked domestic airlines in May 2014 to classify flight attendants into three categories: normal, overweight, and obese. Shortly after, 600 flight attendants were warned six months ago to lose weight or lose their jobs in the cabin. This also isn’t the first time Air India has done this, having removed 10 flight attendants in 2009 for the same issue.

The fact that the majority of flight attendants are women is not lost on anyone, and charges of sexism are flying, as well as accusations that airline is setting a rigid aesthetic standard. Mark Martin, an aviation industry consultant, put it bluntly to the Telegraph India:

“This move to impose a certain BMI, ignoring experience and other performance parameters, is immature, misogynistic and shockingly sexist.”

Air India, however, says it’s an issue of safety, saying:

“People who are fitter can respond quicker and more efficiently in case of any untoward situation.”

While that might be true in some situations, having a high BMI does not always mean you are overweight. Muscle is heavier than fat, so very fit people could actually score high.

Plus, while I can’t speak for everyone, I tend to judge flight attendants more on efficiency, responsiveness, energy, stress tolerance, compassion, understanding, communication, sensibility, and professionalism, to name a few.

Air India is hardly the only airline to impose physical restrictions on flight attendants. .Until recently, Qatar Airways could fire flight attendants who get pregnant or married (now they can take temporary ground jobs). Airlines like United also have minimum and maximum height requirements (5 feet 2 inches to 6 feet). SkyWest requires all tattoos to be hidden (“visible tattoo locations include, but are not limited to, hands, arms, neck, face, legs and feet”). China Southern Airlines perhaps has the most bizarre rule — that flight attendants’ legs cannot be “X or O shaped,” and the airline holds beauty pageants to find male and female crew members.

Road Warrior Voices has reached  out to Air India and will update when we get a response.

NY Drivers licenses wont be valid for domestic travel in 2016

Photo: Ryan McFarland on Flickr

If you have a Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire or New York driver’s license you’ll need a second form of ID to get past TSA as soon as the start of next year.

Back at the end of December 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced the arrival of the Real ID Act, which set federal security standards for government-issued IDs. About 70-80% of existing U.S. driver’s licenses already met those standards. But driver’s licenses from the four aforementioned states did not, and so were deemed “non-compliant.”

The act has been enforced in phases over the past couple years, and the government has now reached the final phase, which is the aircraft phase. Fliers who could previously breeze through security with their licenses from those non-compliant states will need to provide a second form of identification, such as a passport, once the Real ID Act is fully implemented and enforced. This will happen “no sooner than in 2016.” (All accepted ID options are listed here.)

New York media has been reporting that the NY state driver’s license will be rendered invalid as a form of ID for flying in 2016. But a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson informed us there were “no announcements” yet about when this final phase would be fully rolled out.

Official DOH literature says:

“DHS will ensure the public has ample advance notice before identification requirements for boarding aircraft change. That notice will include information on the process for individuals with a non-compliant driver’s license or identification card to be able to travel by aircraft.”

For now, it’s unclear exactly when this will happen or how people will be alerted. But if you’re from one of the non-compliant states and have any flights set for 2016, you might want to plan to bring a passport.

WOW Air once again offering dirt cheap transatlantic flights

Photo credit, WOW Air

Make no mistake about it: this is no mistake airfare. The recently announced sale from Iceland’s low-fare WOW Air will surely leave you saying “wow” once you reach the checkout page on the budget airline’s website. Airfare between its U.S. destinations of Baltimore/Washington and Boston to London Gatwick are as low as $150 each way, including taxes.

Budgeteers willing to eat before the flight, travel light, and risk the wrath of being assigned a middle seat are in luck. Food on board, checked baggage, and seat assignments (including the option to block the middle seat next to you) all raise the needle on the overall price.

Travel with your own entertainment since this no-frills airline won’t ply you with free cocktails or the latest Hollywood flick. Flights connect through the airline’s hub in Reykjavik with just over an hour of ground time, but for flyers crammed into WOW’s tight, all-economy class seating that might be a welcome stop for a leg stretch. The deal is available on the airline’s website for travel between October 1 and December 15 and between January 10 and March 10. Since this is a one-way fare sale price, it is available in either direction whether starting in the U.S. or London.

This isn’t the first time the airline has offered cheap transatlantic fares — most recently WOW offered $99 one-way fares to Paris and Amsterdam, but the cheapest tickets were snagged up almost as soon as they went on sale, so don’t wait if you want any chance at scoring round trip tickets as low as $300.

WOW Air has an expanding network across Europe, giving U.S.-based travelers numerous options to fly abroad for cheap. Unlike Icelandair, Wow Air does not offer a free stopover in Iceland, so those wishing to take a dip in the Blue Lagoon or visit one of the island’s famous volcanoes will have to put those plans on hold.

Even if flying further afield from London, this discount airfare pairs perfectly with the variety of low-fare carriers that fly from London Gatwick airport. Just be sure to pack light as the meager carry-on allowance for WOW Air weighs in at a wimpy 11 pounds.

10 dirty little secrets of frequent-flier programs

Is there anyone reading this who isn’t involved with at least one frequent-flier program? Didn’t think so. Frequent-flier miles are embedded in our DNA. We struggle to acquire them through flying, through credit cards and through any promotion we can find. We boast about the “free” trips we get. And we keep coming back for more.

But many of us are getting a bit more savvy — maybe cynical is a better word — about frequent-flier programs. We’re developing a sense that they aren’t really as helpful as when we first enrolled. That the deck is stacked against us and the stack keeps getting higher. And there’s plenty of evidence to support our cynicism.

Occasional and somewhat-frequent leisure travelers may get hit the worst, but a word of warning to all you road warriors: Don’t be too smug about your insider tricks and tips for gaming the system. The airlines have stacked the deck against you, too — and the house always wins.

It’s the most one-sided contract you’ll ever make

When you enroll in a frequent-flier program and hit that “agree” button, the fine print you commit to is the most one-sided contract you’ll ever enter.

Yes, those frequent-flier contracts are even worse than wireless phone or cable TV contracts. You agree that the airline can change the rules any time it wants without any input from you. One-sided contracts are called contracts of adhesion, and frequent-flier contracts are the super glue of adhesion contracts.

The airline actually owns ‘your’ miles

The worst of the one-sided provisions is that you don’t even own “your” miles — the airline owns them. That’s true even though it regularly offers incentives for you to “buy” miles it “sells” you.

In most real-life situations, “buy” and “sell” strongly imply change of ownership, but not with frequent-flier miles. That means you can’t transfer them to anyone else (without paying a fee of more than the miles are worth). On some airlines, you can’t even bequeath them to a surviving spouse.

And if you do something the airline doesn’t like — repeated use of hidden-city or throw-away ticketing, for example — it can nuke your miles and kick you out of the program.

Most big airline programs favor business travelers

Frequent-flier programs are called “loyalty” programs, but some loyalties are better than others. Big airlines know that they get something like 80% of their revenue from about 20% of their customers (or close to that; I’ve seen various estimates within that range). The 20% consists mainly of frequent business traveler “road warriors” who travel a lot and pay top dollar for tickets, so their loyalty is vitally important.

On the other hand, airlines also know that a large percentage of their lowest-fare tickets are bought by leisure travelers who choose the cheapest available flight, and the airline’s view of them is “loyalty, shmoyalty.”

‘Free’ trips are hard to score

A study by IdeaWorks found that reward-seat availability for major North American airlines ranged from highs of 100% for Southwest, 91% on Air Canada, 87% onJetBlue, and 80% on Alaska; to 75% on United, 67% on American, and a dismal 58% on perennially low-scoring Delta.

In isolation, those figures aren’t bad, but they overstate the real-world situation. They cover direct domestic flights in coach/economy between large airports. Real-world experience suggests that success rates are much lower in business/first class, especially on intercontinental trips, and on connecting-flight awards with decent itineraries.

Awards are often hidden

On airline websites, award travel on “partner” airlines is sometimes hidden and not displayed. Also, miles required for a seat on any given flight may vary depending on which airline’s program booking engines is used.

Often, the only way to get a straight answer is to call an airline’s frequent-flier office. And even then, you may get incorrect information. If an agent says “no” to a request, you may do well by calling back a few minutes later and talking to another agent.

The fees are outrageous

Years ago, once you had an award ticket issued, you could change flights and dates as often as you needed, provided only that the origin and destination remained the same and space on your preferred flights was available. That’s no longer true. Now, even a minor change invites a change fee of $75 to $150; you even have to pay up to $75 to change to a different flight on the day of travel. And if you cancel the trip completely, you have to pay up to $150 to redeposit the miles in your account.

These fees are nothing but gouges, pure and simple. If anything, they’re even bigger gouges than change fees for purchased tickets. With purchased tickets, airlines can at least claim an “opportunity cost,” but changing a frequent-flier award costs an airline virtually nothing. After all, the seats are on a “space available” basis.

The fuel surcharges are crazy, too

International award trips on most airlines based outside the U.S. (including even Air Canada) aren’t really “free” any more: Most of those airlines impose a stiff “fuel surcharge” or an “airline-imposed fee,” which is just a fuel surcharge in disguise, on award travel.

For the most part, airlines based in the U.S. do not impose those fees, even when trips are on a foreign partner airline, but American socks award travel on partnerBritish Airways with the fees. Those charges vary from a few hundred dollars to close to a thousand dollars on a premium class trip.

Fortunately, U.S. airlines do not impose those fees on domestic awards. At least not yet. But remember a basic rule of the airline business: Nothing catches on faster than a bad idea.

Miles aren’t worth their asking price

Most independent observers place the value of airline frequent-flier mile at somewhere around a penny or a penny-and-a-half per mile. Presumably that’s close to the price airlines get when they sell miles to banks for inclusion in credit card programs. But when they try to sell miles to you, the big airlines charge more than three cents — about two to three times what the miles are worth. They even charge up to one-and-a-half cents per mile to transfer miles you’ve already earned or bought.

You’re better off buying a coach seat than using miles

If you generate most of your miles through a credit card, you’re often better off buying a domestic coach ticket. These days, you can buy a round-trip ticket on most routes within the continental U.S. for less than $500. A long-haul trip generally requires at least 25,000 frequent-flier miles, so you’d have to charge $25,000 on your card to earn those miles. But some high-payout credit cards earn two miles per dollar charged, so $25,000 worth of charges would give you $500 cash back, enough to buy a ticket without worrying about award-seat availability.

Overall, the “highest and best” use of miles is for premium cabin travel. The cash prices for those tickets are out of sight, so, for many, frequent-flier miles are the only escape from the cattle car into a comfortable flight. But if you’re a more typical coach/economy flier, you are often better off buying a ticket and conserving miles for occasions when they’re the best option.

Elite status isn’t what it used to be

For road warriors, the most important frequent-flier reward is not so much the miles as it is the elite status that provides special check-in lanes, reduced baggage fees, and — most importantly — space-available no-charge upgrades. But even that benefit is eroding.

Airlines are handing out elite status to more and more travelers, while they cut back on the number of first-class seats on typical domestic flights. These days, just about any departure gate with a display screen lists far more travelers eligible for upgrades than available upgrade seats. Only the super-platinum types can count on an upgrade; for the others, it’s a crapshoot.