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Topic: Travel (Read 894 times)
January 09, 2011, 11:17:02 AM »
Navigating the Airfare Maze Online Gets Tougher
By MICHELLE HIGGINS
Published: January 7, 2011
With online travel sites battling with some airlines, where does that leave travelers shopping for flights online? The simple answer is that they’re going to have to do more digging. Airlines are pulling their fares from travel Web sites amid a standoff over the fees that carriers pay to list their flights.
American Airlines removed its flight listings from Orbitz.com last month, when the companies could not agree on a new contract, and Delta withdrew its fares from CheapoAir.com, OneTravel.com and Bookit.com. More recently, Expedia.com dropped American flight listings. Delta has also notified Airfare.com, CheapAir.com, Vegas.com, AirGorilla.com and Globester.com that it will no longer allow its fares to be included on their Web sites in the United States and Canada after Friday.
The moves represent a standoff over the fees that airlines must pay to list their flights with online travel agencies. And at least one major fare distributor, Sabre, which runs a computer system that allows travel agents to see flight and fare information, joined the fray on Wednesday, announcing that it would end its distribution deal with American in August — a month before the end of its contract — and, in the meantime, would make American fares harder to see in its displays.
But American and Delta are not the only airlines becoming more selective about where their fares appear online. JetBlue, Virgin America and Spirit have increasingly been offering special fare sales only through their own Web sites. And some low-cost carriers, including Southwest and Allegiant Air, have long refused to list fares at online agencies or fare aggregators like Kayak.com, requiring travelers to visit the airlines’ own Web sites to see their flights.
So what’s the best way to search for fares now? Currently, there is no one-stop shopping site that includes all fares, but it is possible to cover your bases using only a few sites.
Start with ITA Software, which provides the technological backbone for many air fare shopping sites. It offers an easy way to narrow down the cheapest days to fly by allowing anyone to scan an entire month’s worth of fares for the cheapest rate. Click on “search airfares now” in the middle of the home page, then enter your departure date and destination and select “see calendar of lowest fares” to see which travel days yield the lowest rates. Travelers can also narrow searches by the number of stops and length of trip. But to book the actual ticket, users must go to another site, like the airline’s.
Cover your bases by adding a so-called meta-search site like Kayak.com, Fly.com or Farecompare.com, which don’t sell plane tickets but search hundreds of travel sites at once. Doing this will give you an idea of the best rates available from various sites. Each meta-search site configures its technology and accesses fares slightly differently, which can affect results. The sites also tend to differentiate themselves through special partnerships. Kayak.com, for example, receives fares from ITA Software; Amadeus, a global distribution system; and some airlines directly, including American and Delta. FareCompare licenses air fare data from more than 500 airlines via the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, which consolidates and distributes airline fares worldwide.
Before you hit the buy button, check out Airfarewatchdog.com, a site with actual people who manually search for fares and will sometimes uncover cheaper fares than the other sites. It often captures sales from Allegiant and Southwest, as well as special, last-minute fares that airlines often save for their own Web sites, like “JetBlue Cheeps” which are put on sale on Tuesdays via Twitter and listed only at jetblue.com/cheeps.
For trips to Europe, consider Momondo.com, a Danish travel search site that scours the airlines’ own Web sites as well as online agencies that focus on low-cost carriers, like LyddAir, which operates flights from Lydd Airport in Southeast Kent in Britain to Le Touquet in France. It also compares rates with more than 4,000 high-speed train routes across Europe — a valuable service, as trains are often more convenient in Europe than planes. One caveat: Because of the way Momondo pulls fares, it may show expired fares in its results.
To help evaluate prices, consider Bing.com, which offers a Price Predictor that uses algorithms to determine whether a fare is likely to rise or fall in the next seven days; this can help when trying to decide whether to buy now or wait for a better rate. Students can also consult STATravel.com or StudentUniverse.com, which offer special deals for anyone enrolled in college or graduate school.
And for those who care most about the quality of the flight experience, there are a couple of notable mentions. Rather than a long list of fares, Hipmunk.com sorts fares according to an “agony” index that factors in price, length of flight and number of connections. In a similar vein, InsideTrip.com, evaluates flights by 11 criteria, including legroom, aircraft age and on-time performance.
Cooties on planes and elsewhere
Reply #1 on:
December 20, 2011, 09:05:14 PM »
Airlines are deploying state-of-the-art filtration systems to contain flu and cold viruses from spreading. Scott McCartney joins Lunch Break to discuss how to avoid getting sick while flying. Photo: AP.
Air travelers suffer higher rates of disease infection, research has shown. One study pegged the increased risk for catching a cold as high as 20%. And the holidays are a particularly infectious time of year, with planes packed full of families with all their presents—and all those germs.
Air that is recirculated throughout the cabin is most often blamed. But studies have shown that high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters on most jets today can capture 99.97% of bacterial and virus-carrying particles. That said, when air circulation is shut down, which sometimes happens during long waits on the ground or for short periods when passengers are boarding or exiting, infections can spread like wildfire.
One well-known study in 1979 found that when a plane sat three hours with its engines off and no air circulating, 72% of the 54 people on board got sick within two days. The flu strain they had was traced to one passenger. For that reason, the Federal Aviation Administration issued an advisory in 2003 to airlines saying that passengers should be removed from planes within 30 minutes if there's no air circulation, but compliance isn't mandatory.
Much of the danger comes from the mouths, noses and hands of passengers sitting nearby. The hot zone for exposure is generally two seats beside, in front of and behind you, according to a study in July in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A number of factors increase the odds of bringing home a souvenir cough and runny nose. For one, the environment at 30,000 feet enables easier spread of disease. Air in airplanes is extremely dry, and viruses tend to thrive in low-humidity conditions. When mucous membranes dry out, they are far less effective at blocking infection. High altitudes can tire the body, and fatigue plays a role in making people more susceptible to catching colds, too.
Also, viruses and bacteria can live for hours on some surfaces—some viral particles have been found to be active up to a day in certain places. Tray tables can be contaminated, and seat-back pockets, which get stuffed with used tissues, soiled napkins and trash, can be particularly skuzzy. It's also difficult to know what germs are lurking in an airline's pillows and blankets.
Research has shown how easily disease can spread. Tracing influenza transmission on long-haul flights in 2009 with passengers infected with the H1N1 flu strain, Australian researchers found that 2% passengers had the disease during the flight and 5% came down within a week after landing. Coach-cabin passengers were at a 3.6% increased risk of contracting H1N1 if they sat within two rows of someone who had symptoms in-flight. That increased risk for post-flight disease doubled to 7.7% for passengers seated in a two-seat hot zone.
The epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002-03 suggested a wider exposure zone, however. On one flight studied, one passenger spread a particular strain to someone seated seven rows away, while people seated next to the ill passenger didn't contract the disease.
That said, most people sitting near someone who is ill probably won't get sick. "When you get aboard an aircraft, most of us don't have a say on who we sit next to. But that doesn't doom you to catching the flu," said Mark Gendreau of Boston's Lahey Clinic Medical Center.
In 2005, he was part of a team that published a paper in the Lancet that concluded the perceived risk for travelers was higher than the actual risk, and that's still the case today, he said.
Even so, there are some basic precautions passengers can take to keep coughs away.
Hydrate. Drinking water and keeping nasal passages moist with a saline spray can reduce your risk of infection.
Clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. We often infect ourselves, touching mouth, nose or eyes with our own hands that have picked up something.
Use a disinfecting wipe to clean off tray tables before using.
Avoid seat-back pockets.
Open your air vent, and aim it so it passes just in front of your face. Filtered airplane air can help direct airborne contagions away from you.
Change seats if you end up near a cougher, sneezer or someone who looks feverish. That may not be possible on very full flights, but worth a try. One sneeze can produce up to 30,000 droplets that can be propelled as far as six feet.
Raise concerns with the crew if air circulation is shut off for an extended period.
Avoid airline pillows and blankets (if you find them).
"If you take the proper precautions, you should do quite well," said Dr. Gendreau. "In most of us, our immune system does what it was designed to do—protect us from infectious insults."
Hidden Dangers in Security
You think the plane is bad? Security checkpoints harbor a host of hazards as well, researchers say.
Airport security areas can make it easy to get sick. People are crowded together, and plastic storage bins that hold personal effects are not cleaned after each screening.
People get bunched up in lines, where there is plenty of coughing and sneezing. Shoes are removed and placed with other belongings into plastic security bins, which typically don't get cleaned after they go through the scanner.
A National Academy of Sciences panel is six months into a two-year study that is taking samples at airport areas to try to pinpoint opportunities for infection.
With limited resources, airports and airlines have asked researchers to help figure out where best to target prevention, said Dr. Mark Gendreau of Boston's Lahey Clinic Medical Center who is on the panel. Check-in kiosks and baggage areas are other prime suspects in addition to security lines, he said.
WSJ: Seats getting narrower
Reply #2 on:
October 24, 2013, 08:09:43 PM »
The Incredible Shrinking Plane Seat
American Airlines, United and Other Carriers Are Wedging an Extra Seat Into Each Coach Row
By Jon Ostrower and Daniel Michaels
Updated Oct. 23, 2013 8:57 p.m. ET
Airlines' push to lure high-paying fliers with flatbed business seats and premium economy loungers is leaving economy-class passengers with less space.
No, you're not going crazy: airline seats really are getting smaller. For airlines, the reason is simple: the lighter and smaller models cut costs and widen profits.
Holiday travelers are skipping the cold this season and making a beeline for the beach, prompting a rise in airfare to places like Florida and Cancun. The Middle Seat columnist Scott McCartney joins Lunch Break. Photo: Getty Images.
A push over the past decade by carriers to expand higher-fare sections has shrunk the area devoted to coach on many big jetliners. But airlines don't want to drop passengers. So first airlines slimmed seats to add more rows.
Now, big carriers including AMR Corp.'s AAMRQ +9.52% American Airlines, Air Canada, AC.B.T +0.57% Air France-KLM SA AF.FR +1.41% and Dubai's Emirates Airline are cutting shoulder space by wedging an extra seat into each coach row. That shift is bringing the short-haul standard to long-haul flying.
For almost 20 years, the standard setup in the back of a Boeing BA -0.03% 777 was nine seats per row. But last year, nearly 70% of its biggest version of the plane were delivered with 10-abreast seating, up from just 15% in 2010.
777 Economy 10-abreast seating BOEING
Thanksgiving and Christmas Airfare Turbulence
Of the airlines that have bought Boeing Co.'s new 787 Dreamliner—a model touted as improving passenger comfort—90% have selected nine-abreast seating in coach over roomy eight-abreast. And 10 airlines around the world now fly narrower Airbus A330 jetliners with nine 16.7-inch seats in each row—among the tightest flying—rather than the eight it was designed for, according to the unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. EADSY +1.96%
The new trend in economy seating reverses a half century of seat growth in economy class. Early jet planes like Boeing's 707 had 17-inch seats, a dimension based on the width of a U.S. Air Force pilot's hips, says Airbus marketing chief Chris Emerson.
That standard for long-haul flying increased to 18-inches in the 1970s and 1980s with the 747 jumbo and the first Airbus jets. It widened to 18.5 inches with the Boeing 777 in the 1990s and A380 superjumbo in the 2000s. Now, cost-conscious airlines are moving to lighter 17-inch-wide seats on their Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners and 18-inch seats for A350s.
This doesn't sit well with many travelers, particularly those who are large or overweight. Arm rests and aisles are also getting slimmed to wedge in the extra seat, meaning more elbows get bumped. And while seats are now being designed more ergonomically, with better cushions and head rests, the improvements don't stop people from rubbing shoulders.
"I felt that I was kind of stuck in the seat" of an Emirates 777, said Ben Goodwin, a marketing manager at Birmingham University in England, who recently flew to China through Dubai. On his connecting flight, an Emirates Airbus A380, the seats were one inch wider. "I felt like I'd been upgraded, even though I was still in economy," he said.
The squeeze can help cash-squeezed airlines. Air France recently expanded the premium sections on its 777s while cutting the floor space in economy class. Yet the carrier kept the number of economy seats constant by switching from nine- to 10-abreast in the back, a spokesman said.
"On a 777, ten-abreast is the way to go," said Emirates President Tim Clark. "You'd be nuts to do it any other way."
Pressure in economy cabins also lets airlines upsell coach passengers. Air New Zealand Ltd. flies 10-abreast 777s on which fliers can book three economy seats that convert into a couch by raising the arm and leg rests.
Passengers aren't happy facing decreased shoulder room, more frequent bumps from service carts in narrower aisles and less overall comfort, said Andrew Wong, regional director of travel website TripAdvisor LLC in Singapore. Based on feedback to the company's SeatGuru website, he said, fliers "are becoming aware of increased seating abreast—particularly for the 777."
Plane makers deflect criticism, noting that seat width is up to airlines. Boeing designs its jets for airlines to do "whatever they want to do inside the cabin," said Mike Bair, Boeing senior vice president of marketing. Boeing designers focus on "creature comfort that can't be violated by the airlines," like bigger windows, larger overhead bins and mood lighting on every jet, he said.
Airlines and airplane makers are aware that passenger hips and waist lines aren't shrinking along with the seats dimensions.
"We are mindful that we serve a wide range of customer types and our aircraft need to be configured accordingly," said senior vice president of marketing and loyalty for United-Continental Holdings Inc., Tom O'Toole, who says the airline brings in real people of all shapes and sizes to help test and select its seats.
But United says seat width isn't the sole focus of passenger comfort. The airline's nine-abreast Dreamliner cabin has received higher marks for passenger satisfaction—49% higher than the average rating of its other long-haul jets, owing to the higher overall marks for the 787's new cabin features, he said.
Airbus is publicly siding with coach fliers by running ads touting the width of its traditional economy-class seats. The tagline: "Personal space isn't any less personal on a 12-hour long-haul flight."
But the European plane maker, like Boeing, is also helping airlines cram more seats in the back of its planes.
When Airbus introduced its two-deck A380 superjumbo a decade ago, it boasted that the lower deck was 12 inches wider than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet but would offer the same 10-abreast seating, giving each passenger up to 19 inches of hip space. Now Emirates and some other A380 operators aim to put 11 seats across, at about 17.2 inches each, the same standard used for smaller jets like Boeing's 737.
"We've tried it," said Mr. Clark. "It works."
Airbus officials say they don't promote the configuration for intercontinental flights. "On long haul, we believe it needs to be a minimum of 18 inches," said Airbus's Mr. Emerson. "If it's a regional flight, we can accommodate one more seat abreast."
Mr. Emerson said seats on an Airbus superjumbo at 11 abreast are about the same width as a Boeing 777 at 10 abreast.
But the packed A380 would have an extra drawback because the center bank of seats, between the two aisles, would be five abreast: In every row, both of the window seats and the center seat would be two seats from the aisle, an arrangement known to frequent fliers as the 'double excuse-me.' That means three passengers in each row could face "this horrendous position of having to cross two people to reach the aisle," said Mr. Wong at Trip Advisor.
Airbus, like Boeing, is making high-density seating easier. On the new Airbus A350 model, now in development, the company is proposing either nine-abreast seating or 10-abreast.
Airbus dubbed the model "XWB" for extra-wide body, because the A350 is wider than its A330 and Boeing's Dreamliner. But Boeing officials note that Airbus is proposing to put the same number of passengers in each row of an A350 as Boeing traditionally put in rows of a 747 jumbo jet—inside a cabin roughly 21 inches narrower.
Boeing's future 777 promises some relief. The proposed 777X's cabin will be 4 inches wider than current versions, giving almost half an inch more per seat at 10 across. But that space won't arrive until about 2020.
The solution, said Mr. Clark at Emirates, is to offer distractions like big meals, frequent snacks and lots of electronic entertainment. Mr. Goodwin, the Emirates passenger from Birmingham, said attentive service did distract him from the seating.
"With food and TV," said Mr. Clark at Emirates, "people are mesmerized."
Connect the toilet to the country
Reply #3 on:
November 04, 2013, 09:10:35 AM »
Okay, world travelers, a different sort of test for you. Guess (or know) which country the toilet is
Please select a destination:
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