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When we contacted author, columnist, and pilot Patrick Smith to ask what he and fellow pilots could tell us about flying that we might not know, he responded with an emphatic “Where do I begin?”

Indeed, Smith has been writing columns, blogs, and books on this very topic for the past 14 years, including a New York Times bestseller called “Cockpit Confidential.” On his website, AskthePilot.com, you can browse his FAQ sectionto get answers to common questions about air travel.

“When people would start a question about flying [with] ‘Is it true that…’ the answer was almost always ‘No, that is completely untrue!'” Smith told us. “That was why I started writing about flying.”

Smith, a long-haul pilot for a major carrier that he prefers not to disclose, took his first flying lesson before he could drive at the age of 14 and began flying for a commercial airline in 1990. We asked him about misconceptions about flying, what it’s like to see the world from 35,000 feet, and what he has in common with the rest of us.

The Plane Flies Itself, Right? Not Really

One of Smith’s biggest pet peeves is a mistaken belief that even seasoned travelers seem hard-pressed to shake: that when a plane is on “autopilot” it is flying itself, like some gargantuan Google Car of the skies.

“I’m not sure where the idea comes from,” Smith said with a hint of exasperation. “It might be that pilots are our own worst enemies in this regard, as a lot of pilots are very enamored of the technology we use, and might say something like ‘we press these buttons and the plane flies itself.’ And in one sense that is true, but people take it very literally.”

One of the most common statements I hear is that not only do the planes fly themselves, but they also land themselves, which Smith denied emphatically, noting that nearly all of the landings he participates in are almost entirely manual.

“There is such a thing as an automatic landing, but I see maybe a couple per year,” he said. “Even with all the automation up and running, you are still always flying the plane. You are not necessarily steering with your hands on the wheel for the entire flight, but the automation only does what you tell it to do, and you have to tell it what to do, when to do it, how to do it, where to do it. The way I describe it is that there are probably six or seven different ways I can command a climb or descent using the automation, depending on the circumstances. The pilot has to determine all of that, and then execute it, make necessary changes, etc.”

Smith once flew a cargo plane across the Atlantic with the autopilot “deferred—which means it wasn’t working,” he explained. “It was simple to deal with, but there is a certain challenge to having your hands on the yoke of a plane for eight hours.”

I asked how hard this was, and whether the pilot had to wrestle with the plane the whole way, which Smith said depended on conditions. In a case like that, the plane could “fly itself” for short periods, perhaps in the way a boat can do the same if you point it in the right direction—but not for much more than that, particularly since you have to worry “not only about left and right, but up and down,” said Smith.

“Autopilot was invented to relieve pilots [from] physically [being] on the wheel, or the yoke, for the entire flight,” Smith said. “It doesn’t take the pilot out of the loop, but does make certain tasks easier.”













​Turbulence Is Normal

“When I first started writing and taking questions about flying, I was really startled by the number of people who are made anxious by rough air, because from our perspective it’s normal,” Smith said. “Not to be dismissive or too nonchalant about it, as it is true that every year a certain number of people are injured in encounters with turbulence. But typically it is because they weren’t seatbelted in when they should have been.”

So Smith is not spooked at all by what I sometimes think of as “potholes in the sky,” but when pressed to think about what does spook a pilot, he did have some concerns about how air turbulence is changing.

“It’s becoming more evident that climate change is increasing the number of encounters with unusually strong turbulence,” he noted. “It stands to reason that if certain climatic patterns are exacerbated, there are going to be a lot of things that come together to make for a bumpier atmosphere.”

Do Pilots Get Bored up There?


“Every professional in every line of work at some point becomes a bit bored, but boredom is not the right word,” Smith said. “Am I sometimes bored over the middle of the ocean at night when not a lot is going on? Sure, but I could bet you can find a surgeon who would say he gets bored in the middle of brain surgery. It’s all relative, so what I like to do in those moments is reflect back on how I got to where I am professionally. When I was a little kid reading airline timetables and imagining what it would be like to be a pilot, now to actually doing it, it keeps me grounded, to use a bad pun.”

Window or Aisle?

“Somebody with an enthusiasm or vested interest in flying is always going to take the window seat, because they enjoy having that constant reminder that you are in this remarkable machine in the air. Over the years you see so many cool things from the air, it is hard to know where to start. Flying over the Sahara Desert, seeing the icebergs in the north Atlantic, flying over the city of Istanbul, looking down at the pyramids, flying over the American West, seeing the northern lights…”

Smith’s book includes a list of the best things he has seen from the air, underlining his continued enthusiasm for seeing the planet from on high. But he also noted that pilots have a unique perspective on some of the more distressing landscapes on the planet, including disappearing rain forests, clearcutting fires and smog over major cities.

“Being able to look down for so long at so much of the planet, what I take away from it is how small the Earth really is, almost in a scary way that might serve as a warning,” Smith said. “A lot of the damage we are doing to the world is very visible from an aircraft.”


​Pilots Are Easygoing Passengers

When we see pilots take empty seats on a plane, we might wonder if they are judging everything that is going on, if they’re worried, if they’re ticked they are stuck in coach. What’s it like for a pilot flying as a passenger?

“It’s like flying as a passenger,” Smith said with a laugh. “We don’t really do any backseat piloting; we’re so familiar with the training that goes into being a pilot that it is hard to get nervous.”

But it’s not all good times: “The things that annoy me about flying are the same things that annoy the average passenger.”

Pilots Are Almost as Unimpressed by Airport Security as You Are

Which brings us to airport security: “The system we have come up with is in some ways so irrational that it makes me question our collective sanity,” Smith said. “Some of it is good and works well, but enough of it is so irrational and unreasonable that it is distressing.

“The parts that work are the parts that we don’t see; the stuff that goes on offstage, so to speak. That really is the nuts and bolts of airport security. What we have on the concourse is another story. I’m not saying that onsite airport security is a bad idea; of course it’s not. But the specifics of what we have come up with are head-scratching. And that would be excusable if they didn’t waste such immense amounts of time and money. Security has now become the single most tedious and aggravating part of flying, and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

For pilots, “There is a certain rolling of the eyes and grumbling, but in the end we acquiesce. I think there should be more pushback against rules that are obviously a waste of time and money; why airline employees and airlines haven’t come together to ask for change, I don’t know.”

Smith writes at length about the state of airport security here in Terminal Madness: What Is Airport Security?; it’s well worth a read.

You Can Glide a Plane Home

In the aftermath of the famous successful water landing of US Airways Flight 1549, which lost both engines after colliding with a flock of geese and ended up in the Hudson River with no serious injuries, many people wondered if you could do that with any plane under any circumstances.

“Even the biggest plane glides perfectly well,” Smith explained. “In fact, the glide ratio—the altitude lost to the distance covered—is actually better in some bigger airplanes than in very small airplanes.

“But most people don’t realize that as a passenger, you glide all the time,” he said. “Descents are often made at what we call ‘idle thrust,’ which means that the engines are still running, but they are producing no forward power or thrust. They are powering the electricity and the air and everything, but they are doing nothing otherwise; you are gliding. If the engines were shut off completely at that point, it would be dark, and none of the internal systems would be powered, but the plane wouldn’t be gliding any differently.

“And that happens on pretty much every flight; there is always some point where you are at idle thrust.”

So instead of saying have a nice flight, perhaps we should say have a nice glide.

It seems that the more time you spend in airplanes, the more mysteries they reveal. We've already unraveled such curiosities as those odd dinging sounds you hear while flying, as well as the secret button that makes your seat appear bigger. And now, thanks to the aviation geeks on Quora, we here with a new revelation.

Perhaps only the most astute of airline passengers will ever notice this, but there are small triangles, each looking like an arrow pointing upward, on the walls of plane cabins. Naturally, a Quora user noticed this and sought the expertise of their fellow users to figure out what they mean.

Some discussion ensued, with one user claiming it indicates the best position "from which you can get the best visual check for ice or other problems."

A more accurate explanation, however, is that one arrow indicates the aircraft wing's "leading edge," while another, a few rows behind, indicates the wing's "trailing edge."

What good is this? Well, if there is a problem with the plane's slats or flaps, the triangles guide the pilot to the best vantage point from which to view and assess the problem.


​The ever-helpful Captain Joe has offered additional explanation on YouTube, saying that the triangles can also guide attendants to where passengers should sit on a nearly empty flight. "Because," he says, "the center of gravity on most planes is on top of the wings. Letting the passengers sit over the wings would cause a better balance of the plane and reduce fuel consumption."

Perhaps the most entertaining part of this revelation, however, is the name sometimes given to the seats below the triangles. According to a Quora user, and backed up by an Airline Ticket Centre blogpost from a few years ago, such a seat is named "William Shatner's seat," in honor of a particularly memorable episode of the Twilight Zone in which he saw a creepy figure on the wing out of the his airplane's window.


Yikes. We'd rather have this William Shatner travel experience, thanks.​​

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It's not why you think.

After tossing and turning for the better part of three hours, you manage to slip into a restless sleep—only to be prodded awake 20 minutes later by a polite-but-beleaguered flight attendant. The plane will be landing soon, and it’s time for you to straighten your seat. Tired and grouchy, you do as they say, but can’t help considering the request just another arbitrary air-travel guideline.

Not so fast.

Though shifting your seat a few inches back or forward may seem of little consequence, during the critical phases of flight—which include takeoff and landing, where the majority of aircraft accidents occur—a straight seat-back can allot you precious seconds. And, as previously reported by Condé Nast Traveler’s Katherine LaGrave, those extra seconds could just save your life.

“Everything we do in aviation is based on effective evacuation,” says Candace Kolander, Air Safety, Health, and Security Coordinator for the Association of Flight Attendants. “The primary exit path is up or down the center aisle to the doors. But there’s also another path people don’t think about: from the window seat to the aisle.” If the seat-back in front of you is reclined, Kolander says, it can slow the passenger in the window seat from getting to the aisle. (This is also the same reason tray tables must be raised.)


​Proof of speedy evacuation has been a Federal Aviation Administration requirement since 1967. Before receiving the OK to take flight, manufacturers must demonstrate via live-action drill (complete with stand-in “passengers”) that new aircraft models can be evacuated in 90 seconds or less. Such simulations often invoke the realism of an actual accident by blocking emergency doors, dimming cabin lights, and littering the aisle with debris. In a real emergency situation, there are enough potential sources of obstruction without the added impediment of reclined seat-backs; straightening them minimizes potential obstacles.

Sitting upright isn’t just for evacuation safety, however. Should there be a fire or hazard outside the plane, flight attendants have a clearer line of sight out of the windows, and can redirect passengers accordingly. Another reason, says Kolander, is to lessen the injury risk during a crash itself: “When we do testing for impact scenarios, the seat is tested in the upright position.”

It also makes it easier for passengers to assume the brace position, a posture proven to reduce the effect of a collision on the body by leaning forward to avoid secondary impact (though the specifics of the pose can vary from country to country, or even airline to airline). Far from an inconsequential annoyance, there’s more significance to an upright seat than meets the passenger’s eye.

“The flight attendant’s primary role is that of aviation first responder,” Kolander says. “We aren’t asking for compliance just because we’re going around to be mean.”

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If you have ever packed light for a trip and opted to use the hotel hair dryer, you might want to rethink that choice.

Studies of hotel rooms have proved that even the most expensive of rooms can harbor bacteria, but while obvious items like the remote and comforter seem to be problematic, the hair dryer has a lot of bacteria.

ABC News conducted an undercover study of hotel rooms ranging in price from $98 to $500 and found that the hair dryer was way dirtier than they would have guessed.


​According Chuck Gerba, a microbiologist that worked on the investigation: "There must be some things you can do with a hair dryer that I am not aware of because some of them were pretty germy."


​Just goes to show that you cannot trust people to wash their hands!

The problem is that housekeeping wipes off the countertops, but the blowdryer just goes back into that conveniently labeled bag never to be sanitized at all.


It started with an amusement park.

On a Wednesday morning in September 1974, Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 en route from Charleston plummeted into a forested hillside near Charlotte Douglas International Airport (at the time, called Douglas Municipal Airport).

Of the 82 individuals on board, 69 perished on impact and three more later passed from related injuries. The fatalities included CBS Evening News editor John Merriman and 6th Naval District Rear Admiral Charles W. Cummings, as well as Dr. James Colbert and his sons Peter and Paul—the respective father and siblings of comedian Stephen Colbert, who was only 10 years old at the time. Though some officials initially suspected heavy fog to be the culprit, a subsequent investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board revealed the true cause to be “poor cockpit discipline” on behalf of the crew. Specifically: small talk. During the process of landing, the captain and first officer had become distracted while trying to identify nearby Carowinds amusement park on the ground below.

Following the wreck of Flight 212 and other similar incidents, in 1981 the Federal Aviation Administration enacted the Sterile Cockpit Rule, intended to prohibit “crew member performance of non-essential duties or activities while the aircraft is involved in taxi, takeoff, landing, and all other flight operations conducted below 10,000 feet.”

“If you look at accident history, most incidents happen during takeoff or landing,” says Candace Kolander, Air Safety, Health and Security Coordinator for the Association of Flight Attendants. “The flight crew is supposed to concentrate on everything that can and can’t happen during those phases because that’s when you could have the biggest issues that could cause the aircraft to crash.”


​But the regulation’s implementation hasn't stopped all accidents caused by crew chit-chat. According to a June 1993 article in the Aviation Safety and Reporting System journal Directline that looked at 63 reports documenting Sterile Cockpit violations of varying severity, the most common cause was extraneous conversation. One submission detailed: “This very senior captain was about to leave on a scuba diving trip and talked nonstop to the female jump seat rider upon discovering she was also a diver … This [altitude deviation] could have been prevented entirely if this particular captain … [had paid] attention to his job and observe[d] some approximation of the Sterile Cockpit below 10,000 feet.”

Other episodes were the result of “sightseeing,” “non-pertinent radio calls and PA announcements” and “distractions from flight attendants.” As Kolander emphasizes, though they are not physically in the cockpit, it’s important for flight attendants to obey the Sterile Cockpit Rule as well: "You cannot call the flight deck during Sterile Cockpit if, for instance, it’s too hot in the cabin, because that communication can wait. It’s about recognizing that crew up there is monitoring equipment and surroundings, and responding to takeoff or landing. That’s their primary focus.”

No surprise, pilots and crew are prohibited from using cell phones on the job. And napping? Unless they're on a scheduled break, that's a hard no. Looks like at least one pilot didn't get that memo. He was caught sleeping on the job while a trainee flew the plane. We'll take awkward silence over reckless piloting any day.

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Think those pretzels just ended up in your hand by accident? Think again.

You just barely made your flight and didn’t have time for breakfast. You eagerly await the sound of the flight attendant’s cart to drown out your stomach’s hunger growls, and wonder what type of snacks they’ll offer. But what you get varies widely from one flight to the next.

If you’re flying domestic economy on a legacy airline like American or Southwest, say, you’re likely to get a tiny bag of pretzels, cookies, or the ever-controversial peanuts. On Delta, the carrier's iconic Biscoff cookies have been consumed at altitude for more than three decades, and gained a cult following. Fly airlines like JetBlue or Alaska Airlines, and you can choose from a handful of brand-name chips or cookies, or cheese and fruit medleys, respectively. United? Expect a Dutch stroopwafel.

International airlines tend to up the ante. Air New Zealand doles out branded hard candies manufactured by the Auckland-based Horners Confectionary; Swiss Air hands out approximately 45,000 14-gram chocolates each day made by Chocolat Frey; and Turkish Airlines plies their fliers with—you guessed it—Turkish delights.

And while free in-flight snacks are as ubiquitous today as the inevitable armrest wars, they're a relatively new addition to the industry. For most of the 1950s and 1960s airlines served big meals, and snack-only flights really didn’t come into existence until Southwest joined the skies in the 1970s, offering “peanut fares” and peanuts for snacks. Really, snacks were a way of cutting operating costs and passing those savings along to the customer with cheaper ticket prices. Industry deregulation in 1978 allowed other airlines to trade in prime rib for peanuts, and after September 11, 2001, profit margins were so tight that skimpy snacks became the norm.


​But how exactly do airlines today select what snacks to serve?

Pricing, unsurprisingly, is one of the biggest factors, and cutting certain snacks—or snacks altogether—can save an airline millions. (Continental stopped offering cookies and pretzels onboard after their merger with United in 2011 and reportedly saved $2.5 million annually.) Most airlines have dedicated product teams that look at everything from taste and transportability to customer demand, sourcing, and branding. 

How a Mistake Could Help You Save Hundreds on Flights

There's no two ways about it: airports are stressful. In most cases, we rush through them too quickly to take in the scenery of the shops, appreciate the nuances of the architecture, or notice all the little things. Here are a few secrets about airports that may leave your feelings on flying up in the air. Read on before you take off.


​No one wants to miss a flight. Sure, you're just going to sit in the terminal, but that's a stress-free hour right there. It's practically a perk. And you don't have to twiddle your thumbs: there are plenty of stores and bars to keep you occupied. Welcome to the 'golden hour.' 

According to The Economist, this is when travelers' moods and wallets are most vulnerable to shops and restaurants in the concourse. But it goes beyond buying magazines and overpriced sandwiches in plastic boxes. Travel retail has expanded into luxury items and for many brands has become the "Formula I of retail," accounting for big revenues.

Retailers are milking these tawny ticks of time for all they're worth, doing everything they can to grab the attention of captive travelers and convert that attention into cash. Free glass of champagne at the high-end boutique? "Well, I'm not going to buy anything there, but it'll be fun to just look." (Good luck.) At London's Heathrow Airport, one big retailer even adjusts its offerings and sales strategies based on when certain flights land and take off. Other airports have rewards programs for frequent fliers to grant them perks for spending more money throughout the concourse. So even if you shaved $50 off your ticket by adding that layover in Kansas City, you might not save money in the long run.


Air travel is an exercise in optimism. You have to believe that your pilot won't binge on bourbon, your seatmate won't spread the plague, and the beast on your plane's wing isn't wicked. Even before you leave the ground, you have to trust that the people who handle your bags and jiggle your junk won't pilfer your stuff. Unfortunately, sometimes those individuals treat your luggage like an all-you-can-leech buffet.

Reports of employee theft have cropped up at various airports, and none of the cases seem anomalous. According to ABC, between 2003 and 2012 at least 381 TSA officers were sacked for stealing from travelers. Among them was Pythias Brown, who snagged over $800,000 worth of electronics and other high-priced items during his four years at Newark Liberty International Airport. Brown claimed "a culture of indifference" had fostered a filching free-for-all. He also explained that luggage X-rays helped offending officers determine who to rob and what to take.

Knowing how airport thieves operate hasn't necessarily discouraged them. In 2015, video footage obtained by CNN showed baggage handlers at Miami International Airport snatching up passengers' belongings. And in 2017, the New York Daily News described how a TSA agent in Orlando used a security pat-down to steal money. In fact, of the 30,621 passenger items reported missing between 2010 and 2014, most disappeared from checked baggage while the rest apparently vanished at TSA checkpoints. So if you like to fly, pack like a poor guy.

A recent report suggests Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado proposal earlier this year to ban Airbnb-style rentals in a majority of the city may have been influenced by hotel industry lobbyists.


According to the Miami News Times, Regalado originally proposed a new law in February that would ban Airbnb and companies of the same ilk in order to protect residents from dealing with properties in the area becoming de facto hotels.

In a series of emails obtained by the Miami News Times, Regalado reportedly received messages from a lobbyist with the Jorge Luis Lopez government-affairs firm, including one with a copy of an ordinance Fort Lauderdale passed in August 2015. The proposal Regalado submitted earlier this year was simply a copied-and-pasted version of the one he received from the lobbyist.

The matter was taken to court in April, when Circuit Court Judge Beatrice Butchko questioned whether Regalado’s decision to ban Airbnb-style rentals was influenced by his interaction with hotel industry lobbyists.

When asked about the situation by the New Times, Regalado said he had met with both hotel industry leaders and Airbnb officials once, but ultimately went against the short-term rental company because it would better serve the residents of Miami.

The fight in Miami is just one of many raging between the hotel industry and Airbnb-style rental companies. Hotel giants believe the rise of short-term rentals has forced them to slash prices and lay off employees, but Airbnb says those claims are just the hotel industry’s way of eliminating competition.

The concerns about Airbnb taking over the hotel industry have been well publicized, but a recent report indicates that’s not the case. According to SeekingAlpha.com, hotel REITs have outperformed the REIT index by 20 percent, and Google Trends data indicates Airbnb growth is already decelerating.
​​

Secrets airports don't want you to know

How Airlines Decide Which Snacks to Serve You

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Why Airline Pilots Can't Chit Chat Below 10,000 Feet

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A new online grocery store is selling food and other supplies all for the price of $3.

The store, called Brandless, launched on Tuesday with generic kitchen items, such as peanut butter, coffee, tea, cookies and other snacks. Brandless also sells cleaning supplies, beauty products and even dishes.


Everything costs $3, largely because the company took away what it calls the “brand tax,” or, the hidden costs of packaging and distributing traditional goods.


“Brandless is about more than any individual product we sell,” store co-founder Tina Sharkey wrote in a Medium post. “It is about the true democratization of goodness.”

Sharkey’s goal is to give everything “better stuff at affordable prices,” she wrote.

The food sold at Brandless is GMO free, and more than half of it is organic, according to the company. Household cleaning products and beauty supplies ban toxic ingredients. The generic products also come with simple and distinctive packaging.

The startup raised $50 million before it launched, TechCrunch reports.

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Ever Noticed Those Little Triangles Above Airplane Windows? Here's What They're For

A Pilot Speaks Out: What You Don’t Know About Flying

UK Sees Record Visitation from US and China

Emirates sends ‘WTF’ email to passenger asking compensation​​

This is the shocking reason why you shouldn't use the hair dryer in your hotel room

Dr. Osvaldo A. Perez, at your service!

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Tourism is worth £127 billion annually to the U.K. economy according to VisitBritain. It creates jobs and boosts the economic growth across nations and regions.

Therefore, news of record-setting visitation numbers during the first quarter of this year is undoubtedly welcome. 

Figures show that inbound visits were up 10 percent in January, February and March while spending rose 16 percent. There was a record number of visitors from China as well, rising 27 percent from the previous year. Chinese spending was also up 27 percent.


​U.S. visitors and spending respectively rose 16 percent and 29 percent more than in previous years. Visitation from France and Australia were also up over 2016—9 and 10 percent, respectively.

The numbers are encouraging and it’s a trend that VisitBritain would like to see continue.


“With forward bookings for international arrivals tracking ahead for the coming months, we are anticipating a strong summer holiday season as we promote the message of value and welcome globally, showing people why they should book a holiday to Britain right now,” said VisitBritain director Patricia Yates.

ForwardKeys’ data shows that this trend is likely to continue. 

Bookings from China to the U.K. are tracking 35 percent ahead of last year for July to September and 21 percent ahead from the U.S. to the U.K. Factors that are likely drawing visitors from both countries include an increased desire for experiential travel as well as a favorable exchange rate.


More and more Chinese tourists are looking to experience new cultures and attractions rather than simply shopping. According to a new report from Oliver Wyman, shopping has lost its lusterwith Chinese travelers dropping from the second-biggest motivation for travel to third.

Spending is shifting from product purchasing to fine dining, cultural journeys and adventure sports, says the study.

"Businesses globally have to adjust their strategy to think about how to capture the new Chinese tourist dollar," said Hunter Williams, Oliver Wyman's Shanghai-based partner. Told Warc.com. “It's less about the outlet mall now and more about the national park."

U.S. travelers, driven by a favorable exchange rate, have been heading to the U.K. in increasing numbers for a while now. VisitBritain reported some of the highest numbers of U.S. travelers headed to the country during 2016.

“These strong numbers show how much Americans enjoy exploring the culture, heritage, cities and countryside of Britain,” VisitBritain interim executive vice president Paul Gauger said in a statement earlier this year. 

“And with the current exchange rate, Americans see value for money. It’s a great time to visit the UK, and enjoy the benefits of how much further your dollar can take you."

READ MORE: Actually, Europe's Best Beach is in Wales

A number of new campaigns from VisitBritain are designed to pique the interest of U.S. travelers thinking about visiting the U.K. 

The “British Famous” campaign is running throughout 2017 in partnership with British Airways and American Airlines. It inspires visitors with a series of videos from comedian Diane Morgan as she tries to “make it in America.” 

In addition, the “Love is Great” campaign celebrates equality and diversity while marking the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales. 

It’s also the 20th anniversary of the first installation of the Harry Potter novels.
​​

Everything at This New Online Grocery Store Costs $3

disney's star wars land: first look

​No, this is not a comedy sketch, Emirates customer services really did send a message to Claire Finch with the subject line “WTF”….

Ms Finch, who lives in Congleton, Cheshire, had successfully sought €600 in compensation after her Manchester-Dubai flight was delayed, but was surprised to receive a second email with the offensive subject line.

The email continued: “… is she on about?!? If you’ve put it in the letter, what the fuk [sic] does she need to do!!!” Ooops!

It wasn’t long before a third email arrived saying the sender “would like to recall the message, ‘WTF…'”.

Ms Finch complained to Emirates who failed to respond. So she contacted the Independent after 4 weeks who intervened and finally the apology arrived from an Emirates executive:

Naturally, I was most concerned to discover that you had inadvertently been copied on an inappropriate internal communication, which was unrelated to yourself or any other passenger.

Please be assured that we do not condone such actions and this is not indicative of our high standards and the image which Emirates wishes to portray. I can confirm that this matter has already been dealt with internally with the employee concerned.


You have to laugh, don't you?

Why you never want to see ‘SSSS’ on your boarding pass

Sometimes, a flight deal seems too good to be true. For example, there might be $187 round-trip flights from the United States to far-flung cities like Casablanca, Johannesburg, or Beijing (Thrifty Traveler spotted these outrageously low fares in late August).

Or, more recently, Scott’s Cheap Flights noticed round-trip tickets to cities across Australia for as little as $509.  

When airfare drops this low, it’s often labeled as a mistake fare, an error fare, or sometimes a “fat finger” fare. These names indicate what happens when a misplaced decimal point, miscalculated currency conversion, or data entry error accidentally publishes incorrect (and incredibly cheap) ticket prices.

Sometimes, mistake fares are the result of a ticket posted before airport taxes or fuel surcharges are added. Other times, they’re simply caused by a computer glitch.

Whatever the cause, error fares can result in truly outrageous flight prices, the likes of which wouldn’t happen during even the best airfare sale.


​Where to Find Mistake Fares

Any site or app specializing in flight deals (we love the Airfare Spot, Scott’s Cheap Flights, The Flight Deal, and Thrifty Traveler) will spot mistake fares before the airline even notices that their $4,000 business class seat is selling for $400.

Why They’re Frowned Upon

In the past, airlines were required by the Department of Transportation to honor mistake fares, however under priced they were. The landmark United Denmark fares, however, set in motion the DOT’s decision to allow airlines to withdraw these tickets.


​In February 2015, $51 first class flights from New York to Copenhagen were found on United’s Denmark website — but they could only be booked in Danish krone when travelers indicated Denmark in their billing address (even though most purchases weren’t made from Denmark-based individuals).

The DOT determined that there was “evidence of bad faith,” and that travelers had to intentionally “manipulate the search process…to force the conversion error.” 

In situations such as this, booking mistake fares is largely frowned upon — not only by airlines and government organizations but also by people who, typically, book full-fare tickets.


​How to Book Them

Error fares can typically be booked through an airline’s website or an OTA (without even having to go to a foreign website or lie about your billing address).

Scott’s Cheap Flights recommends that when travelers suspect a deal is a mistake fare, they book directly through the airline whenever possible — and quickly, before the carrier figures out what's up. 

“It’s better to buy directly from the airline since the chances of it being issued and honored are much higher,” the site explained.


​Tickets purchased directly through an airline are often issued much quicker, too, further increasing your chances of having the deal honored. Once your seat is ticketed, you’re pretty much in the clear.

Months after the Danish United fares were published — and retracted — the DOT ruled that, if an airline could prove fares were truly published by accident, they could rescind those tickets.

“The burden rests with the airline…to prove to the Enforcement Office that an advertised fare and the resulting ticket sales constitutes a mistaken fare situation,” the government department stated.

Airlines must, however, reimburse all out-of-pocket expenses made in confidence upon the reservation, according to USA Today. That means that travelers will not only be refunded for the cost of the ticket, but they can also request compensation for non-refundable purchases like tours, hotel bookings, and other activities planned around the mistake fare.

Nonetheless, it’s still strongly recommended that travelers who think they’re booking a fare published in error wait until the flight has been ticketed to make additional travel plans.
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In 2014, Joe Biden famously compared New York City’s LaGuardia Airport to a third world country. Three years later, public opinion has not changed.

According to a new survey from J.D. Power, Americans still hate New York City airports. But overall, across the United States, customer satisfaction with airports is at an all-time high.

Among the country’s largest airports, Orlando International Airport received the highest rating. Runners up were Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and Las Vegas’s McCarran International Airport. John Wayne Airport, in Orange County, took the top prize for large airports and Sacramento International ranked highest among mid-size airports.


​Across the country, passengers seem to be happier with airports than ever before — except for the airports in New York City. The lowest three airports on the survey were all inside New York City’s metropolitan area. LaGuardia came in last place overall, and Newark came in last for the country’s largest airports.

The survey was conducted based on ratings across six categories: terminal facilities, accessibility, security checkpoints, baggage claim, check-in, and dining and retail options.

J.D. Power relates the higher customer satisfaction to technological advances in many airports. Innovations that have helped ease pain points include automated self check-in and bag drop-offs to apps that help make it easier for travelers to find parking.

Service animals — including ponies in Cincinnati and a pig in San Francisco — have also improved passenger opinion of airports nationwide.

Another survey from J.D. Power, released earlier this year, revealed that customer satisfaction with airlines is also at an all-time high. That rating, however, is relative. The airline industry is currently rated one of the lowest for customer satisfaction.

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A pop-up cafe in San Francisco is offering you the unusual experience of dining in their rat-infested eatery.

What’s more, you will have to fork out a staggering $49 (£38) for the privilege of sipping a cup of coffee and tucking into a piece of cake while rodents watch on or scurry by. On the bright side, it’s an all-you-can-drink coffee buffet.

Are you freaked out?

Don’t worry, this is bit of a publicity stunt by the The San Francisco Dungeon, a tourist attraction where actors reenact bits of the region’s history.

The cafe will open on two dates only: July 1st and July 8th 2017.

The rats are domestic pets provided by Rattie Ratz, a Bay Area rat rescue group. And when you are done eating you get to spend 15 minutes getting to know the “ambassador rat”. If you happen to fall in love with the rats, you can adopt one.

They say rats are clean, intelligent and trainable.

Rat-uccino anyone?

There is really only one thing worse than going through airport security ... and that's going through more airport security!

If you're one of the unlucky passengers who see's four S's on their boarding pass, it means you have been selected to undergo an extensive security screening process. The four S's stands for "Secondary Security Screening Selection" and includes bag searches, pat downs and validation of identity all conducted by the TSA.


​The TSA claims the code is assigned at random but some travelers claim they are selected a majority of the time they travel.

Booking a one-way ticket or paying in cash could result in an additional screening and if you decide not to participate in the extra screening, you cannot board your flight.

The additional screening came about after the September 11 attacks in an attempt to help security officials better monitor potentially dangerous individuals.


​So the next time you see the dreaded SSSS on your boarding pass, you can expect to be delayed, even if your flight isn't.

The Real Reason You Have to Straighten Your Airplane Seat

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New opening: A rat cafe where you pay to eat with rodents – No joke!