Southwest announced Thursday that the airline's spring schedule for 2019 will include new international and nonstop routes. Travelers can expect new options for spring break and beyond from major U.S. cities.

Starting in March, the airline will add new and returning seasonal flights to Cancún from Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and San Antonio; to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic from St. Louis; and to Cabo San Lucas from Baltimore. This is in addition to the airline's existing routes, which can be seen on Southwest's route map.

Alexa Will Now Order Your Favorite Dunkin’ Donuts

West Coast travelers rejoice: a new airline is coming your way.

California Pacific Airlines, based in Carlsbad, California, announced details of its inaugural West Coast service and fares. Connecting the West Coast’s tech- and tourism-heavy regions, the airline will fly nonstop from Carlsbad (outside of San Diego) to San Jose and Reno starting Nov. 1, and to Las Vegas starting Nov. 15.

“Today’s announcement marks the culmination of a multi-year effort that will bring significant convenience in air travel between San Diego’s North County and the top Western-Region destinations our community wants to fly to nonstop,” Ted Vallas, the airline's chairman, said.


​Located less than an hour's drive from downtown San Diego, McClellan-Palomar Airport provides an easy and less congested alternative to San Diego International Airport.


​“Our initial set of cities will address the needs of both business and leisure travelers from nearby McClellan – Palomar Airport,” Vallas said. “Passengers can spend less time fretting the drive to and from the airport, and spend more time enjoying their destination."

In addition to the convenience of the new routes, California Pacific aims to keep prices “competitive,” with fares starting as low as $99 each way. Booking at least 21 days in advance will typically get you the lowest prices, according to data provided by the airline, and you'll want to book early anyway considering each flight will only offer 50 seats.

After purchasing Aerodynamics, Inc. earlier in 2018, California Pacific Airlines will also continue offering the small regional airline's routes from Denver to Pierre and Watertown, South Dakota. Not exactly “California Pacific,” but still an extremely affordable option for travelers heading to South Dakota.

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United Airlines is increasing checked baggage fees on North American, Caribbean and Central American flights by at least $5 for tickets issued on or after Aug. 31.

The fee to check the first bag is rising from $25 to $30 within the U.S., Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and five countries in Central America. The second bag checked will cost $40, up from $35.


​The five Central American nations are Costa Rica, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Between Mexico and those same destinations, the fee for the first bag is $30, up from $25.

Between Canada and those destinations, the fee is rising to $30 USD/CAD for the first bag and $50 USD/CAD for the second bag, up from $35.

The fees are waived for MileagePlus Premier members and eligible companions, as well as those who hold eligible MileagePlus credit cards.


​United announced the fee increases in an email to travel agents and corporate planners.


While mainstream media coverage of the Zika virus has largely faded into the background, agents say that clients who are most at risk of negative side effects -- women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant -- are still avoiding travel to areas where the virus has been locally transmitted.

In late 2015 and early 2016, Zika was confirmed in a number of countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America. The virus started to make headlines following a February 2016 declaration by the World Health Organization that Zika was a public health emergency, with proven links to serious birth defects. The virus eventually made its way as far north as Miami.

Zika is still present in dozens of those countries (see chart, above).

"Travelers looking to get pregnant or who are pregnant have to decide if they want to take that risk," said Darcy Allen, owner of Travel by Darcy in Epping, N.H. "I would say, largely, they are picking alternative destinations or making sure they are tested when they get home before trying to start a family."


​About the virus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Zika is transmitted through mosquito bites or sex. It can also be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and it is thought to also be transmitted through blood transfusions.

Most people infected with the virus will be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, including fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes and muscle pain among the most common. The CDC said symptoms last several days to a week and very rarely cause death or hospitalization.

The virus is particularly problematic for pregnant women. According to the CDC, infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which a fetal brain malformation results in severe neurological defects, including a smaller-than-average head. It has also been linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a nervous system disorder in which a person's immune system damages nerve cells, which can sometimes result in paralysis.

There is no vaccine for Zika. According to the World Health Organization, progress is being made toward developing vaccines and therapies, but hurdles remain.


​What agents are seeing

Margie Hand, an adviser with Andavo Travel in Birmingham, Ala., said most clients are unconcerned about Zika.

"In general, I don't think it's really affected bookings at all," she said. "I definitely am booking a ton of Caribbean. I think probably the biggest effect on Caribbean bookings has been the hurricanes from last year and availability."

While clients generally are not concerned with Zika, Hand said, the exceptions are those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Within the past two or three weeks, she said, three clients in that at-risk population specifically requested Zika-free destinations.

"For that market, for those who are expecting or trying to get pregnant, that's still something that they think about," she said. "It's still something their doctors are discussing with them."


​Angela Pierson, co-owner of Wallace Pierson Travel on Amelia Island, Fla., agreed that most general clients aren't talking about the virus anymore. "It seems like it's just kind of fallen to the wayside for a lot of people," Pierson said.

She speculated that the falloff in media coverage is playing a role in that, as is the resilience of well-traveled clients.

"I think a lot of them realize that our new normal is just a constant state of chaos, whether it's volcanoes going off or acts of terrorism or Zika; there's always something that seems to be happening," Pierson said. "I think people just got to the point where unless they really feel uncomfortable about a destination, if it's something that they wanted to do, we're just not seeing it change their mind."

Gretchen Macknight of Perfect Honeymoons and Getaways Perfected in San Diego, said Zika concerns are "still quite prevalent" among her clients.

"Very possibly, we hear the phrase more than some because a large part of our business is honeymooners and brand-new families," she said.

Agents are largely sending clients concerned about Zika to Bermuda or Hawaii.

To discuss or not to discuss


​Legally, agents are under no obligation to discuss Zika with their clients, according to industry lawyer Mark Pestronk, Travel Weekly's Legal Briefs columnist.

"Agents should provide clients with, or have clients agree to, a disclaimer that states that, for health matters at destinations, go to the CDC website," Pestronk wrote in an email. "That discharges the agent's duty, in my opinion."

Some agents said they are still discussing the virus with clients, though.

"I do think it is our responsibility to [bring it up], gently and gingerly, with all respect," Macknight said, adding that she brings it up "carefully" with clients.

"It's not something [like], 'Oh, hey, are you pregnant?' There has to be a bit of sensitivity there," she said. For example, she might ask, "Is Zika anything that you have been concerned about? Are you guys planning on expanding your family anytime in the next couple of years? That is a gentle enough but direct, to-the-point-enough question."

Things aren’t looking real good for Blockbuster Video these days. Most of the stores closed down four years ago. And an effort by HBO’s John Oliver to save one of the last remaining ones failed. But the last remaining Blockbuster might have a key weapon in luring in customers in a streaming age: its own beer.

The store has teamed up with 10 Barrel Brewing, an AB InBev-owned craft brewer in Bend, Ore., to create The Last Blockbuster, a new beer designed to be paired with your DVD rental and buttered popcorn.


​The beer is a light-bodied black ale that the brewery says has nuances of red licorice. It will be released on Sept. 21 for a limited time. The store and brewery plan a block party to let people try The Last Blockbuster (presumably both the beer and the movie rental store). It will also be served in 10 Barrel pub locations, which are located in Oregon; Boise, Idaho; San Diego, Calif.; and Denver, Colo.


​Blockbuster’s final stores have held on for years after Dish Network shut down the majority of them after buying the company. A sense of nostalgia or curiosity has thrust them in the spotlight of late, though. In April, John Oliver and HBO’s Last Week Tonight bought the jockstrap Russell Crowe wore in Cinderella Man for $7,000 (and other props) and donated them to two Blockbuster locations in Alaska.

Even with that publicity boost, though, the stores closed in July.

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Walt Disney Co. will no longer receive tax incentives from the city of Anaheim. On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council passed a unanimous 7-0 vote to end subsidies for the entertainment giant, at Disney's request. 

The council's vote follows a long-running clash between Anaheim and Disney, with some city officials and residents voicing concern over what they view as overly generous tax breaks for the company. The tax breaks were designed to spur increased investment from Disney.   

The conflict came to a head in mid-August, after Disney decided to change the location of a 700-room Disneyland hotel development in Anaheim. The tax break for that project alone had been estimated at around $267 million. 

The city argued that the location switch would void any subsidies that had previously been approved for the development. Disney fired back, announcing that the hotel project would be suspended indefinitely. 

Last week, however, Disney changed course, asking Anaheim to end the tax incentives in an effort to improve its relations with the city. 

"These tax incentive policies, which are successfully and widely used across the country to stimulate economic growth and development, unfortunately became counterproductive in Anaheim -- prompting our decision to step away from them," Disney said in a statement.

Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait called Disney's request "a rare opportunity to hit the reset button in our city."

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Dunkin’ Donuts, America’s beloved coffee and donut chain, has come a long way since first opening its doors in 1950. With the launch of the company’s latest announcement, an ordering service integrated in Amazon Alexa devices, Dunkin’ might just be the most technologically advanced donut shop in the country.

To order on-the-go, customers must be a member of Dunkin’s DD Perks, which handles the financial part of the transaction, and have the Dunkin’ Donuts skill installed on their Alexa device.

To order, simply say, “Alexa, order from Dunkin’ Donuts,” and follow the prompts to pick a previously visited location and saved order, how you’d like to pick up the order (in-store or drive-thru), and confirm.


​Though this is Dunkin’s first attempt at letting customers order food through the device, die-hard Dunkin’ fans shouldn’t be surprised to learn this isn’t the company’s first Alexa integration. Last year, on National Coffee Day, Dunkin’ introduced the Dunkin’ Donuts Quiz, an Alexa skill that allows customers the chance to quiz their knowledge on munchkins, cold brew, and the history of coffee. Want to play yourself? Simply say, “Alexa, play Dunkin’ Donuts Quiz,” for a fun break between asking her to check you in for flights and reserving your hotel rooms.

It’s a match made in coffee heaven. Especially since America runs on Dunkin’ and Alexa might just be trying to take over the world.

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Zika virus remains concern for travelers with pregnancy plans

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The grounds worker was seriously injured at Philadelphia International Airport last week.


​The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are investigating an incident that left a 60-year-old grounds worker seriously injured at Philadelphia International Airport last week.

An Aer Lingus flight was pushing back from its gate on the evening of August 24 when a worker was caught “under an airplane moving tug and wheel of the plane,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The injured man — who was checked into a local hospital in critical condition — was employed by a different ground handling company, Dubai-based Dnata. According to local reports, the grounds crew was handling the plane during the pushback.

Details about the incident are still vague. Dnata did not explain what sort of work the man was doing when he was injured nor how the accident occurred. “A formal investigation is currently being undertaken to determine the facts and we will continue to work with the relevant authorities,” a Dnata spokesperson said in a statement.

While being run over by a plane is incredibly uncommon, it is not unheard of for grounds crew. Over a 22-year study, the NTSB recorded 80 accidents, involving 98 workers and 21 fatalities. Two-thirds of those accidents took place while the plane was departing the gate.

Dr. Osvaldo A. Perez, at your service!

Discrepancy between hotel rates and occupancy worrisome

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If you thought your last flight was chaos, consider yourself lucky that you’ve never witnessed a brawl like this.

A mass fight broke out on an easyJet flight from London Luton Airport to Ibiza after a woman allegedly “gave lap dances,” flashed her breasts, did cartwheels down the plane aisle, and tapped on passengers’ heads as she passed by.

A passenger on the flight identified only as Josh filmed the fight and told Unilad that the woman and her travel companions were drinking at the time.


​"We got on the plane and her friends were all seated at the back, and she was at the front amongst guys who were giving her more drink," Josh told Unilad. “There was no proper trouble, everyone was just a bit fed up with her. It was a late night flight as well, we took off at about 10 p.m. I think. She was just drinking more and more on the flight and then when we were coming in for landing, obviously you have to put your seat belts on, she didn’t.” 


​At this point, a friend of the brunette woman moved to the back of the plane to help calm her down, to no avail. She then reportedly proceeded to run up and down the aisle, tapping on people’s heads, when another passenger, a blonde woman, slapped her hand away. When the blonde woman’s boyfriend tried to defend her, the brawl broke out.

According to Unilad, plane crew were still in their seats, primed for landing, when the incident occurred. “A couple of other people were filming too, some people ran to the front to get away from it, and then the other people in the video were trying to break it up,” Josh said. 


​In the video, it’s not clear who is actually fighting and who is trying to break it up, but it definitely seems like it was easy for bystanders to get sucked into the brawl.

Airport Grounds Worker Dragged Under Wheel of Plane Pushing Back From Gate

Pittsburgh-based OneJet, which catered to business travelers by offering small jet air service between midsized markets, has suspended operations. 

OneJet said the move will be a temporary one as it shifts its business model from contracting out flight operations to operating flights itself.

"Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused by this disruption; the result of this transition will be a more robust and reliable operation for our customers from the fourth quarter forward," the company said. OneJet said the transition will last eight weeks and that it expects to resume flight bookings on Oct. 1.

The suspension follows a stream of recent bad news for OneJet. Pittsburgh's Allegheny County Airport Authority sued OneJet for $763,000 in early August, saying that the company accepted a $1 million economic development grant in 2016 but failed to operate the required number of routes.

Around the same time, OneJet's deal to purchase Ultimate JetCharters fell through, said Rick Pawlak, Ultimate's managing director. UltimateJetCharters is parent of the Cincinnati-based scheduled charter carrier Ultimate Air Shuttle.

In another blow, the IRS filed a $622,000 tax lien against OneJet on Aug. 14 for nonpayment of federal excise taxes, the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette reported.

The fortunes of OneJet changed quickly. As recently as the spring, OneJet was offering the required 10 routes from Pittsburgh and another two from Milwaukee using seven-seat jets. In addition, in March the carrier opened Buffalo-Albany service on a 30-seat Embraer ERJ 135 aircraft. At the time, CEO Matt Maguire told Travel Weekly that the company planned to have three more 30-seat jets in operation this summer.


​However, by last week OneJet was offering only the Buffalo-Albany flight, plus Pittsburgh-Hartford, Pittsburgh-Indianapolis and Indianapolis-Hartford.

Though the company says it will resume operations soon, some are skeptical.

"Canceling all flights for what seems like eight weeks at best is going to be a huge blow to an airline struggling to gain traction," analyst and blogger Brett Snyder wrote on his website CrankyFlier.com. "And even that would be the best-case scenario. OneJet seems to have a list of enemies these days, and debts are mounting. If OneJet finds a way back into the air, I'll be amazed."

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On Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations intercepted an imposter at Washington Dulles International Airport using facial comparison biometrics—just three days after the airport implemented the state-of-the-art technology.

This critical action—in which CBP officers discovered that the man posing as a French citizen was not a match to the passport he presented—occurred on the same day the U.S. Travel Association met with CBP officials at Dulles to discuss security screening and observe the airport’s new technology.

The outcome at Dulles echoes what U.S. Travel has been saying for years: biometric screening drastically reduces the rate of deception by verifying that an individual is exactly who they are claiming to be, and significantly amplifies our national security. There can be no stronger or more timely argument for aggressive implementation of this technology across our transportation modes.

CBP is working to roll out biometric screening at airports nationwide, after implementing the country's first biometric entry and exit program at Orlando International Airport in June. 

The U.S Travel Association commends CBP for their actions to intercept an imposter, and remains committed to supporting the agency’s efforts to expand biometric screening.

Air Canada has reported that some of its mobile app users' personal data might have been compromised in a breach this month. The carrier has locked all mobile accounts following "unusual login behavior" between Aug. 22 and 24 and is requiring passengers to change their passwords.

The breach could have compromised basic personal information like name, email address, phone number and passport and known traveler information for those who stored such data in the app, but credit card information is encrypted and protected. Aeroplan loyalty numbers also were among the visible data in the app, though the app does not store passwords. Even so, Air Canada is advising passengers to monitor their credit cards and Aeroplan activity as a best practice.

Air Canada estimates that about 20,000 profiles, about 1 percent of its 1.7 million mobile app profiles, could have been improperly accessed during the breach. On Wednesday, it began contacting potentially affected customers by email. Accounts on Air Canada's website are not linked to its app accounts and were not affected.

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It's all in the name of science.


​But for more than 1,000 lucky people this fall, an Avocados-rich diet is about to be on the menu regularly — with a hefty subsidy.

Researchers at Loma Linda University, Penn State, Tufts, UCLA and Wake Forest University are seeking about 250 interested participants each this fall to test out the commonly-believed hypothesis that nutrient-rich avocados are good for you — and, specifically, if consistent avocado consumption “impacts the amount and distribution of fat in the body,” according to the application site.

Those selected to be part of the study will be asked to eat an avocado a day for six months, or two a month for six months. They don’t specify how your avocado must be consumed, so just imagine all those daily doses of guacamole. (You also have to be 25 years old or older. Men should be 40 inches at the waist at least; for women, the minimum is 35 inches around the waist.)


​The avocado everywhere. But is the buttery fruit really as good for you as we have come to consider it? This study will aim to find out. Perhaps it’s an avocado a day — and not the humble apple — that will save us all.

Besides being told to eat avocados, study participants get a kickback at the end of the six-month study: $300, plus of course free avocados “either during the study or after the study completion.” So if avocados are already a budget line-item for you — or you’d like them to be — this could be the perfect side hustle.

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​Farmers' Almanac is predicting that this winter is going to suck.

In its prediction for the 2019 winter season, Farmers' Almanac is expecting “teeth-chattering” cold across the country. And not only will the cold be colder than usual, according to the forecast, it’s going to last longer.

“Our time-tested, long-range formula is pointing toward a very long, cold, and snow-filled winter,” editor Peter Geiger said in a statement. “We stand by our forecast and formula, which accurately predicted the many storms last winter, as well as this summer’s steamy, hot conditions.”


​“From the Continental Divide east through the Appalachians,” Americans should invest in a good winter coat for this winter season, according to Farmers' Almanac.


The Great Lakes, Midwest and central and northern New England are expected to experience heavier-than-normal snowfall. Skiers in those areas should plan to hit the slopes in January and February, when the heaviest snowfall is expected.

Those who are looking to escape the cold should plan their warm-weather vacations for the middle of February, when Farmers' Almanac predicts temperatures will be their most brutal. The cold is expected to last through the end of March. But winter could linger until April.

No matter which prediction you believe, winter weather is always a great excuse to book a trip somewhere nice.

As U.S. hotel occupancy reaches an all-time high, industry analysts are growing increasingly concerned about a concurrent drop in average daily rate (ADR) growth. 

According to STR data, U.S. occupancy hit a record 66.1% in the first quarter of 2018. ADR gains, however, saw a dramatic dip beginning around 2014 into 2015 and have since stagnated. STR now predicts rates will increase 2.6% this year and 2.4% for 2019.

"There's a paradox, in that rate growth is anemic despite all-time-high occupancy levels, and despite the fact that there's been stronger ADR growth during high-occupancy periods in the past," said Carter Wilson, vice president, consulting and analytics for STR. He added that the steep discrepancy between the two metrics is unprecedented. 

"Rates are growing, but they're only on pace with inflation at this point," he said. "And inflation is increasing."

Exactly why ADR growth is failing to climb remains a mystery, though Wilson said he believes it's most likely a confluence of several larger trends. He cites the growth of OTAs, for example, as one possible contributing factor.

"OTAs created a lot of transparency in pricing for the consumer, making it easy to rate-shop," Wilson said. "So by simple deduction, you can say that's been one of the causes, but that doesn't necessarily explain why we're seeing an even more pronounced divergence between occupancy and rate growth starting in 2014 and 2015."


​ADR growth could also still be struggling to bounce back from the 2008 financial crisis, when hoteliers frantically cut rates in the face of plummeting occupancy. According to Wilson, customers might have since been "trained" to expect lower prices, making it more difficult for properties to return to higher rates post-recovery. 

Jack Corgel, professor of real estate at Cornell University and CBRE Hotels senior adviser, speculated that current revenue management methods could be another culprit. 

"Revenue managers are incentivized to boost occupancy at expense of rate," Corgel said. "So they're pushing the buttons to get higher occupancies, because they might get bonuses or other rewards if they can get 100% occupancy. So this makes them willing to drop rate and get as many people in the building as possible." 

Maintaining high occupancy also works in a hotel's favor when it comes to loyalty program redemption policies. Generally speaking, the higher the occupancy is when a free stay is booked with points, the more likely a hotel will receive a larger reimbursement for that redemption.

Other factors that could be keeping ADR growth low include an overabundance of supply and the proliferation of home-sharing options.

"Cities are where you're seeing most of the supply growth and most of the Airbnb activity," Corgel said. He added that despite the phenomenon being widespread across all regions and hotel types, high-occupancy urban markets are seeing a somewhat more marked disparity between occupancy and ADR growth than suburban ones.


​Even as both occupancy and demand remain robust, low ADR growth could spell trouble when it comes to driving profit, Wilson said, adding that focusing on occupancy at the expense of rate could give the industry cause for concern.

Also worrying is that occupancy's bull run could be nearing its end, with STR recently reporting that the U.S. hotel industry saw a year-over-year dip in occupancy for the first time in 12 months this July.

"Hotel and economic trends are cyclical, and we've nearly been in the longest expansion cycle in history," he said. "So everyone is trying to push profits while they can, but you're also battling against wages and payroll. Labor costs are a huge concern for the industry, and there's only so much you can expand in terms of occupancy; a lot of these hotels are effectively sold out, so they can't get more money by selling more rooms. So they have to do that by rate, and if they're unable to do that, then it's tougher to grow profit, even in the midst of this massive expansion cycle."

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New service to Cancún and the Caribbean is a great excuse to book a flight for spring break — even if you're no longer a student. There's also no reason to wait until March — the Farmers' Almanac is predicting a long, cold and snowy winter, and a warm-weather getaway could be just what the doctor ordered.

There will also be new nonstop service between Cleveland and Tampa, Cincinnati and Orlando, Dallas and West Palm Beach, Dallas and Harlingen, and Houston and Lubbock.

Flights for travel through April 7, 2019, are now available on Southwest's website.

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