JetBlue decided to start charging passengers to check bags. Many airlines in the past six months have increased the number of frequent flyer miles or points you have to spend to get an award ticket. And Delta, in a strange move just a few weeks ago, took its award chart down from its web site. Now you type in where you want to fly and when, and the site tells you how many miles you need to cash in. Not exactly a great example of transparency.
Then there’s that airline fuel charge that every airline added to the cost of tickets when the price of jet fuel was high. But that price plummeted the same time you saw your gas prices fall at the pump. I know some airlines got stuck with high prices for a while because they’d hedged fuel prices way ahead of time and guessed very, very wrong.
But few airlines have lowered prices despite fuel savings. As long as planes fly full, don’t hold your breath awaiting a drop in fares.
When you pass through an airport you can be forgiven if you think security is tight. But the biggest hole in airport security unfortunately involves personnel who can get the closest to the plane you’ll be flying.
In December, a former Delta Air Lines employee and a current one were arrested for masterminding a gun-running scheme that involved sneaking weapons, some of them loaded, aboard flights from Atlanta to New York. The weapons were carried in the cabin of the plane.
That’s just one story involving airport or (in this case) airline employees who can circumvent security screenings in some cases by simply showing their airport IDs.
Unfortunately, we’re talking about 950,000 men and women. That’s how many employees of airlines, airports, and vendors have access to around 18,000 access points at the country’s 450 airports.
Miami and Orlando airports screen all employees, but most airports don’t. And a TSA study says it’ll take nearly $2 billion just to do random security screenings of employees. The TSA’s total, annual budget right now is only $7.3 billion a year.
This may take congressional action, which is an oxymoron, I think. Until something goes very wrong, our airports have an obvious Achilles’ heel.
It’s already warm in Santa Fe—the average March temperature there is in the upper 60s—perfect for hiking. The magazine posed their models along Route 66.
The SI team stayed and shot at the Blackberry Inn in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, and while that inn is fairly pricey, there are plenty of other moderately lodging options, including Dollywood, in the ‘hood.
Captiva Island is one of Florida’s prettiest places, and it’s prime time there now. The crew stayed at the South Sea Island Resort. It was the Best Western Grand Resort in Bryce Canyon, Utah—great climbing and hiking territory.
In northern California, the magazine called the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay home, and then they went north to wine country in Yamhill, Oregon. In Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, they headquartered at the St. Regis Princeville.
And the US Virgin Islands are still part of the US—no passport needed. The SI folks stayed on St. John and the pricey Caneel Bay. Here are videos of the models shooting at several of these location:
Well, I don’t have the answers, but a new book that considers all manner of calamities that can befall a traveler does. It’s the work of several expert health and security experts, and its titled Lizard Bites & Street Riots.
The sub-title describes what’s between the covers: “Travel emergencies and your health, safety, and security.”
Want to have the best chance of surviving a plane crash? Want to know what to look for before entering a bat cave? Or how about how to fend off an attack by a wild animal? How to avoid Montezuma’s Revenge or survive an earthquake? How about surviving heat stroke, fungal infections, earaches, or acute high-altitude sickness? Not to mention being taken hostage.
It’s all in Lizard Bites & Street Riots, a concise laundry list of present dangers and how to avoid them or how to deal with them should you need to. As my friend Terry Garcia of the National Geographic Society says in his introduction, this is essential reading for every traveler.
Do you remember the “Pudding Guy?” His name is David Phillips, and in May of 1999, while grocery shopping, he noticed that a package of Healthy Choice pudding offered 500 miles for every UPC symbol sent to Healthy Choice by the end of the year. And if you submitted proof of purchase by the end of May, you’d receive double miles.
David Phillips seized the moment.
A civil engineer with the University of California/Davis, Phillips didn’t fly all that often, but he did the math and spent about 50 hours buying and sending in $3,140 worth of Healthy Choice pudding coupons. For his effort, he received about $25,000 worth of airline tickets—1.25 million frequent flyer miles, to be exact. That’s 12,150 cups of pudding.
And among frequent flyer chat rooms, Phillips entered the pantheon of legendary mileage fanatics.
There are two lessons here: Keep your eyes open for similar opportunities, though they are few and far between. Secondly, don’t ever let anyone tell you that frequent flyer miles aren’t worth anything. Not only did Phillips profit—airlines earn millions a year selling miles to businesses that have nothing to do with flying.
Oh, Phillips donated the pudding to Goodwill, whose employees helped him cut out all those UPC symbols. Winners all around.