Travel Updates: Stuff You Need (and Want) to Know

Useful and interesting news about airlines, baggage, flights – whatever you need to know for a smoother trip in 2017. We’ll provide travel updates whenever stuff happens.

FREE MEALS IN ECONOMY CLASS: We told you back in February that Delta was bringing back free meals in economy on certain long-haul routes, and now American Airlines says, it’ll do the same. Can United be far behind? –posted March 14

STRANGE THINGS ON FLIGHTS: Try to imagine this item as read by Samuel L. Jackson: a British Airways flight to San Francisco scheduled for take-off March 1 was delayed several hours after someone spotted a mouse on the plane. According to the Evening Standard, the crew reportedly told passengers “rules stipulate planes cannot take off with mice onboard” which is no doubt giving pilots in Australia a good laugh; they’re used to all sorts of creatures inside and outside planes like Qantas’ hitchhiking snake of a few years back (video from Fairfax Media via YouTube). –posted March 2, 2017

NEW CITIES, NEW ROUTES: Thanks mostly to USA Today, we have a route update for you. Some of these flights are already underway, others will begin in spring or summer. Take a look:

  • from Providence, RI: Norwegian Air will begin flights to Belfast, Edinburgh, Cork, Dublin, Shannon.
  • from Newburgh, NY: Norwegian Air will begin flights to Belfast, Edinburgh, Dublin, Shannon.
  • form Hartford, CT: Norwegian Air will begin flights to Edinburgh.
  • from Pittsburgh, PA*: Spirit will begin flights to Dallas, Myrtle Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orlando.
  • from London Heathrow: British Airways to Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, and Santiago, Chile.

*The Pittsburgh flights are in addition to Spirit’s flights out of nearby Latrobe, PA. And here’s a plug – if you’d like to book any of the above flights – you’ll find them on FareCompare. –posted Feb. 27

THE WINNERS ARE: There were lots of winners in the latest statistics from the Department of Transportation; here are just a few.

  • Cancelled flights: This was the lowest percentage in 22 years. As for flights arriving on-time, Hawaiian led the pack (figures) with Alaska second and Delta an impressive number three.
  •  Mishandled baggage: This too was the best showing in decades, probably because more of us use carry-ons. Nevertheless, nice job and in the 1-2-3 spots were Virgin America, JetBlue and Alaska.
  •  Big winner: Passengers, of course, thanks to the above stats but also because you can find cheap flights on FareCompare. You knew we’d work in a plug.
550x275 what do you mean my bag is lost in a field baggage luggage
The Lost Bag

ATTENTION OENOPHILES: Yes, you wine lovers will enjoy this: Alaska Airlines will expand its ‘Wine Flies Free’ offer on the new San Luis Obispo, Calif. to Seattle route which starts April 13; what you get is a case of wine transported for free (a service that would normally cost from $35 to $65 one-way). Alaska already allows a free case on several other routes in California, Oregon and Washington and you can learn the details here. –posted Feb. 8

West Coast Winery in California
West Coast winery 

NO DRONES AT SUPER GAME: Going to Sunday’s epic football contest? Get those tickets now! Also, the FAA has declared a near 35 mile radius of airspace around Houston’s football stadium a No Drone Zone on Feb. 5 from 4 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. local time. Gizmodo calls this ban “absurd” but leave your drone at home anyway. This video will help you remember! [sorry, no Brady or Ryan] –posted Feb. 1

Might be time to finally sign up for Pre-Check: You’re not a member of the TSA PreCheck program, but you check your boarding pass carefully every time you fly because it often includes an abbreviation for PreCheck , so you get the shorter security lines for free! Not anymore, though – or so it seems. According to Skift, “TSA has informed airlines that starting in February it will ‘significantly reduce’ the number of passengers randomly selected for faster screening.” You might still get the free screening – maybe – but probably not nearly as often. The good news is, it only costs $85 for a five year membership and the sign-up process is quick and easy [trust me, I know]. –posted Jan. 31

Delta outage + airport protests: Delta says it’s system outage is now, “Fixed!” but a few flights have been cancelled, so check to see if yours is one of them (contact the airline and/or check ‘flight status’). Tip for other travelers: You heard about the demonstrations at U.S. airports over the weekend; consider heading out to your flight extra early. –posted Jan. 30

More flights for Connecticut: Get your sunscreen out, Hartford. Spirit will begin daily flights from Bradley International to Orlando starting April 27, and a daily flight to Ft. Lauderdale plus four flights a week to Myrtle Beach starting June 15. Tip: Always compare airfares because even Spirit doesn’t always have the best deal. By the way, Aer Lingus began flying out of Hartford, too, last fall. Nutmeggers, your time has come. –posted Jan. 26

Airports with fastest WiFi: Fast internet service sure can make a flight delay zip along (OK, maybe ‘move’ along is more accurate). Unfortunately, many airports have slow WiFi connections! The good news is, Speedtest by Ookla (a company that analyzes such things) has ranked the twenty busiest airports in the U.S. by WiFi speed. Congratulations, Denver and better luck next time, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson. See more on methodology here, and now, the best to worst list:

  1. Denver
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Seattle
  4. Dallas-Ft. Worth
  5. Miami
  6. New York’s LaGuardia
  7. Chicago O’Hare
  8. Newark
  9. New York’s JFK
  10. Houston’s Bush
  11. Detroit
  12. Los Angeles
  13. Charlotte
  14. Boston
  15. Phoenix
  16. Minneapolis
  17. Las Vegas
  18. San Francisco
  19. Orlando
  20. Atlanta

Hey, Atlanta, are you going to fix this by Feb. 5th? –posted Jan. 25

Super Bowl flights added: If you’d like to go to Houston for The Big Game, good news: both JetBlue and Southwest are adding flights (and they are going fast, no kidding). How much? We just priced out Boston to Houston flights for Friday/Monday and the roundtrip total was a scorching $896 on JetBlue, about $90 more on Southwest. [We found cheaper flights on FareCompare, by the way] Looks like Atlanta fans will pay about $550 and up. –posted Jan. 24

Another airline adds controversial carry-on rule: First, United announced it would allow no regular-sized carryon bags in its upcoming Basic Economy class; in other words, these passengers would have no access to overhead bins. Instead, they’ll pay a fee to check any bag (exception: one small bag that must go under the seat, and one only – no purse, no laptop). Now American says it will do the same when it begins its Basic Economy and U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is not happy (though he hasn’t offered a solution beyond saying it shouldn’t be allowed). The real question: Is Basic Economy worth it for frugal flyers? Yes and no, but don’t worry, travel expert and FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney breaks it down for you. –posted Jan. 23

Were you caught in the United ‘ground stop’? We hope not, but there was a two hour domestic ground stop on Sunday (Jan. 22) – due to an “IT issue” that led to a lot of anger on social media and it wasn’t the first time a computer glitch grounded flights. If you were caught up in the mess, consider dropping United a line along with your flight information and a description of your inconvenience. Who knows, you might get an apology or you might get miles or more (but no guarantees, we’re just speculating here). –posted Jan. 23.

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Updated: March 14, 2017