Anticipating the wait. To help passengers manage their travel time, the Transportation Security Administration has launched a website (waittime.tsa.dhs.gov) that lists security-checkpoint waiting times at all U.S. airports. Findings are based on 28-day rolling historical averages for each airport, day of week and time of day. The information is collected and posted daily. The results page also shows the current security-alert level.
Cash for cruising. Service charges aren’t new in the world of travel, but what used to be optional on Norwegian Cruise Line is now a mandatory $10 per person daily fee for leisure travelers. (The charge always has been a nonnegotiable part of NCL’s bill for meetings and incentives held on the company’s ships.) Currently, only passengers on the Pride of Aloha are required to pay the $10; the fee will be mandatory in lieu of tips for the crew on all of NCL’s ships starting next May.
New on the web. Currently in test phase is Mobissimo Travel (www.mobissimo.com), which might give sites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity a run for their money or push them to change their technology. The search engine scours 57 airline ticket providers for the best fare, often beating the big three.
A test search in August for a roundtrip flight from Newark Liberty International to San Francisco International with travel dates of Oct. 8 and 11 brought back a ticket price of $221 from Expedia and Travelocity and $222 on Orbitz. Mobissimo found those prices, too, but also listed a $216.70 ticket from Continental Airlines’ own website.
Fewer miles for shorter trips. Many people hoard their frequent-flyer miles for cross-country or international trips, rather than wasting precious awards on quick, inexpensive flights. But American Airlines has made it more palatable for those who want to go shorter distances with their miles by introducing new short-haul MileSAAver awards, good through Feb. 28, 2005. Roundtrip tickets for trips of less than 750 miles one way cost 15,000 miles for economy class (10,000 fewer miles than regular frequent-flyer trips) and 30,000 miles for first or business class (a 15,000-mile savings). United has rolled out a similar program for travel booked online and completed by Dec. 31, 2004.
Stretch out. Following in the footsteps of JetBlue, which offers yoga and Pilates exercise suggestions for passengers (available online at www.jetblue.com), both Song and United have their own in-flight fitness programs.
The workout for Song, Delta Air Line’s low-fare carrier, was designed by exercise expert David Barton. For $8, travelers get a resistance band, a ball and instructions to follow either onboard or in a hotel room. The kits currently can be obtained on select flights out of New York City’s JFK International Airport or on the Internet at www.flightstation.com/buysong.
United and its low-fare sibling Ted run an exercise program on the inflight entertainment system. Called the Traveling Trainer, the two-minute segments are produced by Chicago fitness expert Michael Sena. “Good Circulation” is always in the rotation, either coming or going, along with other pertinent topics like “Good Posture,” “Neck Stretches” and “Tight Back.”
Cold relief. Long a favorite of travelers who experience ear pain when flying, EarPlanes pressure-regulating earplugs from Cirrus Healthcare also relieve similar discomfort for flyers with stuffy heads.
Ear pain in the air is caused when the eustachian tubes are blocked or swollen; pressure changes in the cabin can be too rapid for the tubes to adjust. EarPlanes counteract this by creating an equal but opposite pressure on the exterior of the middle ear.
EarPlanes, also available in child size, cost $22 for a package of four pairs. They can be purchased at most drugstores or at www.earplanes.com.