Tag: Virgin America

You’re Surfing Gravity Waves, Dude

gravity waveAccording to a new study, gravity waves, mysterious waves that ripple unseen throughout the atmosphere, may be a major source of airplane turbulence.  Yep, gravity, the source of all my weight and aging problems, is now found to be hitting airplanes in waves (like water).  Gravity waves in the atmosphere can amplify and break , and it’s been determined that’s it’s a major contributor to turbulence in the atmosphere that affects aircraft.

Gravity waves form when air traveling up and down in the atmosphere meets resistance.  For instance, clouds rising in the troposphere, the lower level of the atmosphere where air mixes freely, will bump up against the boundary of the much more stable stratosphere, forming ripples in the process.  Big mountains like the Colorado Rockies often form gravity waves as air flows over the mountains and then overshoots as it reaches the other side.

Gravity waves in the atmosphere can amplify and break, and we’re finding now that’s a major contributor to turbulence in the atmosphere that affects aircGravity waves in the atmosphere can amplify and break, and we’re finding now that’s a major contributor to turbulence in the atmosphere that affects aircraft.

If you think about it, the theory behind gravity waves make a lot of sense.  For example, have you every asked yourself why it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning on some days than others.  Or why your weight fluctuates 5-10 pounds?  It’s not the extra piece of holiday cake.  It’s because you’re being hit with a gravity wave.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • US Airways has become one of the world’s first airlines to accept MasterCard PayPass-enabled cards and devices to make contactless payments for in-flight purchases. Passengers can tap their PayPass-enabled MasterCard or device on a US Airways’ PayPass-accepting reader to complete a transaction without use of a PIN or signature because of the low-value transactions.
  • Those who want to see the TSA go away may have their day.  The agency has been so widely criticized for its procedures that it didn’t even bother to show up for a House aviation subcommittee hearing last week, as officials seemed fearful of having to answer hard questions and wanted to avoid getting publicly lambasted (again).  But the TSA’s absence may have spoke louder than words.
  • YouTube has reached a new agreement with commercial airline Virgin America that brings web video content to passengers during flights. Beginning Dec. 15, passengers can watch videos from five YouTube channel partners on the small screen that’s in the back of each seat’s head rest. The content includes Warner Brothers’ H+ The Digital Series, WIGS’ Blue, Geek & Sundry’s Written By a Kid, Crash Course, and Barely Political’s The Key of Awesome.

Zagat Rates the Airlines

Zagat Rated Web icon

According to a new travel survey released today by Zagat, Virgin America is the carrier of choice for frequent flyers.  The airline was named the poll’s top overall carrier for it’s coach and premium classes on both domestic and international routes.  More than 8,000 frequent flyers were asked how well airlines delivered on comfort, service and food.

Other winners in the annual poll included:
•Continental Airlines, which ranked first of big U.S. airlines for coach and premium classes on domestic and international flights. Continental is merging with United Airlines.
•Southwest Airlines, which was cited for the best website of all U.S. and foreign airlines. On domestic routes, Southwest also was cited for the best value, the best luggage policy, the best check-in experience and the best on-time flight estimates for consumers.
•Singapore Airlines, which was named No. 1 for coach and premium classes on international flights.
•JetBlue Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which ranked No. 1 for in-flight entertainment for their respective domestic and international flights.

Other winners in the annual poll included:

- Continental Airlines – which ranked first among “big” U.S. airlines for coach and premium classes on domestic and international flights.  Continental is merging with United Airlines.

- Southwest Airlines – which was recognized for the best website of all U.S. and foreign airlines.  On domestic routes, Southwest also was cited for the best value, the best luggage policy, the best check-in experience and the best on-time flight estimates for consumers.

- Singapore Airlines – which was named number one for coach and premium classes on international flights.

- JetBlue & Virgin Atlantic – which ranked number one for in-flight entertainment for their respective domestic and international flights.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today, JetBlue unveiled its “Top Secret Sale” where you can book up to nine different vacation packages starting at $99 per person, including airfare and a 3-day hotel stay.  Travel between Dec. 5-14, 2010.  You pick the destination and the flight, JetBlue picks the hotel.  Even though you can’t pick your hotel, the airline guarantees it is a three-to-five star hotel.  Taxes and airline fees are extra.
  • Passengers on a Delta flight from Chicago to New York  got an eye-full over the Thanksgiving weekend after an “emotionally disturbed” woman stripped naked and created a ruckus.  As flight attendants tried to calm her down and cover her with blankets, she allegedly shouted, “No! No! No!”  She was eventually taken into custody, but not charged.
  • Airlines are adding seats and flights, cautiously betting that the optimistic travel outlook the industry has had for much of the year will continue.  Most carriers are adding seats by increasing the number of flights, or by moving to bigger planes.  JetBlue has added the most with a 7.6% increase; and Delta has added 5%.  With increased supply, there’s hope that cheaper airfares are on the horizon.  If you’re planning to fly in 2011, this is a good year to track for airfare decreases with Yapta.

There’s Drama in Online Travel

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In a press release  issued early today, Expedia, Kayak and Travelocity announced that they have formed FairSearch.org, a coalition of large online travel sites and travel technology companies, banded together in an effort to urge the Justice Department to challenge Google’s proposed $700 million purchase of ITA Software.

ITA powers some of the Web’s most popular airline-ticket search and booking sites, including Kayak.com and Hotwire.com.  Expedia (owner of Hotwire and Expedia.com) as well as Kayak and Microsoft, whose Bing search engine relies on ITA for airfare searches, argued to Justice Department antitrust lawyers that with ITA’s data and technology Google could gain an unfair competitive advantage because it would, “enable Google to manipulate and dominate the online air travel marketplace.  The end result could be higher travel prices, fewer travel choices for consumers and businesses, and less innovation in online travel search.”

It didn’t take Google long to respond from it’s blog, stating that the deal would not result in higher travel prices or fewer choices for consumers because ITA and Google aren’t competitors, and that ITA doesn’t set ticket prices for sell tickets and Google doesn’t plan to either.  Google also noted that the three most popular travel websites in the U.S. – Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity – all use data provided by ITAs competitors. (Doh!)

Google said that it won’t be “choosing winners and losers in online travel” because its goal is to build tools that drive more traffic to airline and online travel agency sites and that those tools will create more overall online sales for those sites.   And by combining ITA’s ability to analyze data on seat availability and pricing with Google’s search engine could end the “frustrating experience” today’s airfare search, where a “simple two-city itinerary involves literally thousands of different options.”

Sounds a lot like the plot to the popular TV mini-series “V”.  The one where aliens move in and say they come in peace, but actually have sinister motives.  They claim to only need a small amount of Earth’s resources, in exchange for which they will share their advanced technological and medical knowledge.  As a small number of humans begin to doubt the sincerity of the seemingly benevolent aliens, it’s discovered that the aliens have spent decades infiltrating human governments and businesses and are threatening to take over the Earth.

Awesome.  Can’t wait to see how the real-life version plays out.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Earlier today Southwest Airlines announced a winter airfare sale with some one-way tickets as low as $30.   The sale lasts until Thursday, and like any fare sale, there are restrictions.  With this sale, customers can buy one-way tickets for $30, $60, $90 or $120 based on length of travel.  Travel dates are good between December 1 and December 15 and January 4, 2011 and February 16, 2011.  Sundays are not included in this fare sale.
  • Virgin America also announced a “No Tricks, Just Treats” fare sale today. Virgin America is now offering low one-day advance purchase fares to all of its destinations for travel between Oct. 26 through Oct. 31, 2010.  Tickets are on sale today and can be purchased via Virgin America’s Web site (www.virginamerica.com) and at 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN (1.877.359.8474). Restrictions, taxes and fees apply. Tickets must be purchased by Oct 30, 2010, and travel must occur between Oct. 26 and Oct. 31, 2010.
  • Starting next month, federal regulators will start cracking down on a new rule that requires air passengers to submit personal identification data when booking for flights and show a recognized government ID at the airport that matches the information. The rule was introduced last year, but the Transportation Security Administration imposed a year-long grace period that ends at the end of the month.

Holiday Airfares Up From 2009 – So Book Early!

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Airfares for the holiday season are up about 17 percent from last year, and prices aren’t expected to drop anytime soon.

With Christmas less than 90 days away and Thanksgiving practically right around the corner, holiday fliers should be shopping right now and preparing to buy tickets in the next few weeks.  Airlines, including the low-cost ones, have raised their base fares.  Even the sales offered this fall for nonholiday travel were not as cheap as last year.

So what are you to do?  For one, check out airfares in the next few weeks, then plan on buying tickets for Thanksgiving by mid-October.  For Christmas travel, plan on buying no later than early November.  And of course, continue to track the price of your flight with Yapta – to ensure you get the lowest price.

Here’s some more news you can use:

  • United Airlines and Continental Airlines announced this morning that they have closed on their $3.2 billion merger of equals, creating the world’s largest carrier. The airlines will continue to operate as separate entities for at least a year until granted a single operating certificate by the Federal Aviation Administration.
  • If you’re willing to upload an “oops,” “yikes” or non-Kodak-moment family vacation shot or even give your opinion on other goofy families, you can get one-third off airfare to Orlando, Fla. , on Virgin America — and maybe even score some free tickets.
  • Hawaii’s hotel occupancy topped 74 percent last week, but room rates remained flat (averaging $167.60 a night) as visitors to Hawaii continue to be driven by bargains and discounts, according to a report compiled by Smith Travel Research and Hospitality Advisors.

Has Tipping Reached its Tipping Point?

Tip Jar 2

One travel expense that can empty your pockets quickly is tipping.  $5 at the valet.  $5 for room service.  $5 for bags brought to your room.  Well, the age-old gesture may become a thing of the past at many hotels.  For example, the USA Today reports that The Elysian hotel  in Chicago has recently adopted a no-tipping-necessary policy.  Customers can tip if they want to but are told when they book the room and check in that tipping is not necessary.

Instead of hiring staffers who’ve worked in other hotels, the Elysian sought out people with retail or other non-hotel experience because they know customer service but aren’t used to being tipped.

The Elysian isn’t the first hotel to have this policy.  Other city hotels like the Seaport Hotel in Boston have also done away with tipping.  Could this become a broader trend?  Has tipping reached its tipping point?  We shall see.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Low-cost carrier Virgin America announced today that it will introduce daily non-stop flights to Orlando from Los Angeles and San Francisco beginning in August.  One-way fares will start at $149 and $199 respectively.  The airline has also requested permission from the DOT to start flying north of the border to Toronto.
  • Federal regulators are looking to hit American Airlines with $300,000 in fines over maintenance issues.  The FAA said today that American’s mechanics put off maintenance on aircraft instruments that measure air speed and heaters that prevent instruments from freezing up during flight.  The airline has 30 days to appeal.

The Last Airfare Sales of 2009

airfare saleHere’s a quick look at some of the last airfare sales of 2009:

  • Virgin America is conducting one more sale before the end of the year. One-way fares start as low as $39 from Los Angeles to San Francisco or $59 to Seattle.  Act quickly; it’s a 48-hour sale.  You can grab seats through Feb. 28 with only one-day advance purchase.
  • Southwest Airlines also kicked-off a winter airfare sale with flights as low as $59 each way to / from cities across the U.S.  Purchase your airline ticket by 11:59 pm PT Jan. 4, 2010 for travel from Jan. 12 to March 9, 2010.  These airfare deals are good for travel on all days of the week.
  • Continental Airlines has made fares as low as $178 round-trip to destinations within the United States.  Round-trip fares to European destinations are starting at $486 round-trip, and fares to Latin America are starting at $227.
  • American Airlines has launched “The Great American New Year Sale” offering deep discounts on flights from London Heathrow and Manchester to a number of major U.S. cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando and Las Vegas.  Bookings must be made by 26 January 2010 in order to take advantage of the sale prices.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, which fly about half of all passengers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said they will waive baggage fees for items checked as baggage that the passenger otherwise would have taken aboard as carry-on baggage from Mexico or Canada.  The only items allowed on board will be “small purses, cameras, coats, items needed for infants, laptop computers, diplomatic or consular bags, crutches, canes, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items, medication or medical devices, musical instruments, or a special needs item.  Passengers with non-exempt carry-on items will be denied access through the checkpoint.”
  • With the new air travel restrictions – including no bathroom visits or lap items during the last hour of flight – flying with children just became a whole lot more difficult.  The New York Times blog, Motherlode, asked: “So, what is a parent to do? …Any thoughts on how to keep youngsters calm and entertained whitough your usual tools?”  Readers didn’t seem to have many suggestions – but they had a lot of strong opinions.

Airlines Launch “Cyber Monday” Fare Sales

Cyber MondayA handful of the major airlines are using “Cyber Monday” to offer deeply discounted airfare prices to travelers.  United Airlines, JetBlue, and Virgin America have all just announced special one-day prices, with all of them practically giving flights away to select destinations starting at $39 each way.

JetBlue has limited its discount travel window to Dec. 1-17 in an effort to fill all the empty seats that fly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Daily Travel & Deal blog from the LA Times provides a more detailed analysis of this particular offer.

United’s sale is for travel in the contiguous U.S. and Canada from Jan. 5-Feb. 11.  Travel to and from Hawaii is Jan. 11-Feb. 11.   A 3-night, Friday night or Saturday night minimum stay is required for travel within the contiguous 48 United States and to Hawaii.   No minimum night stay is required for travel to Canada.

Virgin America’s sale is the broadest, with the promotion lasting until Dec. 8 and travel permitted Dec. 3- May 23.  However, certain peak travel days around the winter holidays are blacked out.

Hopefully we’ll see competing airlines match prices on overlapping routes.

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • Continental Airlines said today that credit and debit cards will be accepted for purchases onboard most its aircraft starting Tuesday. Flight attendants will use hand-held devices to process the card payments for purchases of alcoholic beverages and headsets.  The airline said that the new cashless system will be available on all Continental mainline flights, except for service to and from China.
  • Yapta’s hotel booking partner Orbitz.com, recently announced it has enhanced its Low Price Guarantee, giving customers ironclad confidence they’re getting the lowest possible hotel prices. Under the new program, customers who find their prepaid hotel room available for a lower price on any site, including Orbitz, can receive a refund for the difference and a $50 discount on a future hotel or vacation package booking. Plus, Orbitz now allows customers to submit a claim right up to the time of the property’s cancellation deadline.
  • In celebration of its new blog, CheapOair is launching a “@CheapOair 12 Days of Travel” contest where travel-minded Tweeps can win daily holiday gifts including travel and retail gift certificates, and a grand prize on day 12 for free round trip airline tickets within the domestic U.S.  The 12 day contest starts today and ends on Fri., Dec. 11th.  For this contest, followers of the CheapOair Twitter account will be asked to “re-tweet” that day’s message or go to the CheapOair travel blog to find that day’s message to “re-tweet”.  For more information, visit http://contests.cheapoair.com/.

Free WiFi From Google on Virgin America Flights

Google announced on their blog today that they’re partnering with Virgin America to provide free WiFi on every Virgin America flight between November 10, 2009 and January 15, 2010.

“Whether it’s using Gmail to confirm an airport pick up time with your brother, doing some last minute gift shopping for your niece on Google Product Search or searching Google.com for a good sweet potato pie recipe before touchdown — we hope this makes it a bit easier to stay connected with family and friends while you’re up in the air.

You can find out more about our partnership, where Virgin America flies and how the in-flight WiFi service works at www.freeholidaywifi.com.”

Virgin America currently serves 10 major markets, including San Francisco (SFO), Boston (BOS), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Orange County (SNA), San Diego (SAN), Seattle (SEA), Washington-Dulles (IAD).

Here’s some more travel news you can use:

  • The Detroit Free Press reports that Northwest Airlines is changing nearly all of its current flight numbers this week – so be sure to confirm your Northwest Airlines flight number before heading to the airport.  The changes are due to the takeover by Delta Air Lines and go into effect Saturday (10/26) for international flights and Sunday, Nov. 1st for domestic flights.
  • AirTran Airways is expanding its mobile device options for customers to help manage their air travel. The expanded mobile Web services will allow flyers to book flights and change or cancel travel plans using their mobile devices, according to an AirTran release. The new services complement existing ones offered by AirTran, including being able to view flight status and check in for flights.
  • JetBlue said today that its expanding its service at Boston’s Logan International Airport.  The New York-based carrier said that five daily nonstop flights from Boston to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will begin on March 1, 2010.
  • There was an interesting debate carried out in a recent edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which Kate Hanni, the Executive Director of FlyersRights.org, and James May, President and CEO of the ATA, offered their perpsective on the proposed legislation for a  “Passenger Bill of Rights”.   Give it a read and comment here to let us know which side of the debate you fall on.
  • If you’re interested in capturing information on hotels in nearly any city or town in the United States , visit Yapta’s new hotel browse pages.  You’ll find background on hotels from Abbeville, AL to Worland, WY.