This World Traveler

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Travel Shopping 2008

With the Holidays literally in our lap, it seemed to sneak up on me this year. Maybe because New York City decided to have warm 60 degree plus weather in mid-December... at least until yesterday. There is something really pretty about Manhattan in the snow. Got a traveler on your Christmas list? Here are four great gift ideas for that person who has travel in their blood.

1. City In A Bag
If Paris, London, New York or Tokyo is close to your friends heart, you can give a little bit of that city to them! Small wood models of landmark buildings in a bag with a handkerchief map of the city to place the toys on! A fun way to remember that favorite place, and a great deal at just $15.
Available at MUJI stores or online from the MoMA store

2. Wet Suit Bag
Beach vacations are fun, but if that swimsuit doesn't dry out before you get going, unpacking can be a messy, smelly and sometimes mildewy mess. Flight 001 offers a special bag just for this problem. Specially treated to keep itself clean, its a handy way to keep the wet stuff away from your dry, clean clothes. Just $12 too
Available at Flight 001

3. Crown Room Club Membership
Maybe your special someone is a road warrior for work. Delays at the airport can make for a miserable time. But having lounge access can certainly help! Crown Room Clubs are good deals too with an open bar for the travelers. And now that three month memberships are available at just $90 a person, it won't break the bank either!
Available at Delta.com

4. Travel
Why not just give your travel loving friends, the gift he really wants? More travel! You don't need to fork out hundreds of dollars either to get them someplace special, just a little gift here or there to help them along the way. Many airlines sell them, including American Airlines and JetBlue for as little as $50.00! Cruise Lines also offer them as well, like Royal Caribbean and Carnival.

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Roger, 12:18 PM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reviewing Red: A Look at Virgin America's In Flight Entertainment

When Virgin America came to life last year, they promised a brand new flying experience, a premium low-cost experience built around purple lights and Red screens. Red, their in flight entertainment experience, is a powerful system, but still doesn't seem to work all that well - even after a year plus.

First, here's where Red shines the best. Their in flight information is among the best out there. Using Google maps, the system lets you zoom in over particular areas you are flying and seems to update fairly quickly. The best part of the system, is that the bottom pop up bar that can be used to change channels can keep the flight information available to you with just a quick swipe to the screen.

Also, you can quickly and easily order a snack or a meal through their services as well, and with 24 channels of live TV, plus a wide selection of music, movies and foreign language options makes the system very powerful.

There will be some internet connectivity, and the system is set up to have a news reader application although neither of these things are activated yet. It is a touch screen system which could be annoying, but the screens are suitably sensitive enough that tapping the screen won't bother the person in front of you.

A couple of things that need improvement though. The TV reception. On two longer flights, the reception was horrid. At times, none of the live channels got any reception for a seemingly inexplicable reason. For one flight, the satellite seemed totally out of sync as 12 of the 24 channels had 0 reception for the length of the flight. The pop up nav bar is buggy and at times will just stay in view on the screen, obscuring the lower third until you turn the TV off and turn it back on.

Also, the chat feature? Totally not used and not needed. Frankly, it would probably be a better use of system resources to offer more radio stations, games or tv stations. On the whole, the system is powerful and will grow with the airline, but there are some bugs that need correcting. Fixing them will give Virgin America one of the best in flight experiences in the sky.

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Roger, 10:55 AM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 15, 2008

1 Picture = 1000 Words: Denver From The Sky


Denver looks amazing from above. What strikes me the most is the way the western edge of the city just seems to end and really moutainous regions just begin. There's something really stunning about that.

(Picture Taken aboard Virgin America Flt 23, 12/11)

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Roger, 9:24 AM | link | 0 comments |

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cruise Lines Eliminating Fuel Surcharges

It's about time things got better for the consumer this holiday season. With the cost of oil now 70% below its summer peak, its a really hard sell to keep fuel surcharges in the fare. Last week, the Carnival family of cruise lines pulled the plug on the fuel surcharges, refunding everyone who paid them and is sailing on or after December 18. Other cruise lines have followed suit as well, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian as well as many other smaller lines in the last week. They all will end their fuel surcharges for sailings leaving January 1, 2009 or later. Will this be a temporary suspension?

We're betting the answer is yes. Carnival Corporation, in their press release says that once the price of crude hits $70 again, its game on with a $9 per day fuel surcharge. Other cruise lines, have the bar set lower at just $65 per barrel. And just because you book now, doesn't mean that if the price of oil jumps again that you will be immune. The press releases seem to be worded with the intent of retroactively charging these fuel surcharges when and if the cost of oil spikes again.

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Roger, 11:21 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Virgin America Expands to Boston

Airline expansion is not exactly the in thing these days. First ridiculous fuel costs, then a deep recession has made contraction, rather than expansion the rule. But this isn't the case with low cost carrier Virgin America which has announced its eighth and only new destination for 2009, Boston.

The five daily flights, to San Francisco make sense for the fledgling carrier as the Boston-San Francisco route is underserved. This could be a little bit of trouble for an already strapped United, and a bit of salvation for Virgin America whose load factors have led to underwhelming performance.

Will this help Virgin reach a break even point in 2010? Only time will tell, but this is long haul expansion that makes sense for the somewhat troubled carrier.

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Roger, 2:56 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, December 08, 2008

Airlines Go Merger Crazy!

Don't look now, but soon there may be just one or two airlines to choose from. Or at least so it seems. The tough economy has left a lot of airlines easy pickings for the stronger in a relatively weak field to consolidate and grow.

Delta and Northwest combined just a couple months ago, Lufthansa recently completed its acquisition of Austrian Airlines, joining Swiss to its stable of fellow airlines. And now, its sight is set on Alitalia... as the italian bankruptcy mess sorts itself out. Alitalia, before any other airline gets its hands on it, is looking to merge with its rival Italian carrier "AirOne." Air France/KLM has its sight set on Alitalia too, so Lufthansa is taking no chances, setting up "Lufthansa Italia," a six plane airline based in Milan.

In the meantime, British Airways is building its own empire, looking to merge with both Spain's Iberia Airways and Australia's Qantas. Not to mention each of these European players has a stake in US Airlines.

AirFrance/KLM are extremely invested in Delta/Northwest. Lufthansa owns 19% of JetBlue, and has a close alliance with United - which is also cozying up to Continental. British Airways and American are extremely close as well.

So what does this mess mean for you? Maybe not a lot in the short term, but down the road look at less competition and higher fares.

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Roger, 12:05 PM | link | 0 comments |