Xinhua News Agency, the official state media outlet, reported on Thursday that Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang is asking his nation’s tourists to improve their behavior, stressing the importance of projecting “a good image of Chinese tourists.”
The remarks were made during a State Council teleconference on the implementation of the country's new Tourism Law. Slated to take effect Oct. 1, the law includes measures to address issues including unfair competition, price hikes and forced goods purchases.
In the last decade, Chinese tourists have gone from being relatively rare outside of Asia to becoming the most important market in global tourism, surpassing American and German travelers in 2012 as the world’s top international spenders.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday approved new rules that would increase the available spectrum for air-to-ground broadband service. Current air-to-ground broadband connectivity is covered within a three-megahertz allocation, but the FCC proposal would increase that allocation to 500 megahertz. “For passengers, that should mean higher speeds and the ability to access a wider range of applications, like video,” said commissioner Ajit Pai.
The number of travelers checking into hotels with laptop computers is shrinking, according to data from iBahn, which provides Wi-Fi for nearly 3,000 hotels worldwide. The company surveys 230,000 customers each month, and for the nine-month period that ended in March, its results showed fewer travelers carrying laptops. At the same time, it found accelerated growth in the use of iPads and other tablet computers. Just one year ago, travelers preferred laptops over tablets for video streaming by a 3-1 margin, but now an equal number of respondents show a preference for tablets. The company sees similar shifts when it analyzes the types of devices customers are actually using to log on to Wi-Fi networks. usatoday.com
Things are back to normal today at the nation’s airports now that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has returned air traffic controllers to their normal work schedule, ending a week of flight delays due to insufficient staffing. Congress acted late last week to give the Transportation Department more flexibility in how it accounts for the spending cuts required by sequestration, allowing the FAA to end furloughs for the controllers it employs, as well as avoid the impending closure of 149 towers operated by contractors at smaller airports. The FAA resumed normal operations Sunday night, even though President Obama has yet to sign the bill because the Senate version contained a typo—the word “account” should actually be plural—that’s not due to be fixed until Tuesday. More than 3,000 flights were delayed since the furloughs began on April 21, the FAA says. cnn.com
If you were looking forward to taking your Swiss Army Knife with you on a flight next week, you’ll have to wait a bit longer—maybe even forever. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has decided to delay implementing a policy change that would have allowed passengers to carry knives with blades less than 2.36 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. The new rules, which were scheduled to take effect Thursday, generated strong opposition from airline worker unions, a few major airlines and industry groups, and 133 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Those parties praised the TSA’s decision to indefinitely postpone the changes and urged the agency to drop the idea completely. The TSA argued that permitting small knives would allow it to better focus its resources on bomb detection, but it now says it is considering additional feedback from its Aviation Security Advisory Committee. thehill.com
Staffing reductions due to government spending cuts are starting to cause moderate delays at some airports, but major nationwide disruptions to air traffic have not emerged so far. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began implementing furloughs for air traffic controllers on Sunday as part of a plan to meet a $637 million budget cut mandated by Congress. All of the agency’s 47,000 employees, including 15,000 controllers, will lose one day of work every two weeks through September. Unlike the closure of towers operated by contractors—which will mainly affect smaller, regional airports—the furloughs are reducing staffing at the nation’s largest airports. Having fewer controllers on duty reduces the number of flights that an airport can handle, making delays more likely.
There were few obvious signs of problems during the day on Sunday, which is typically a day with lighter traffic, but by Sunday night staffing issues had resulted in delays of more than three hours for flights arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, the FAA said. Most problems had cleared up by Monday afternoon, helped by clear weather across much of the country, but the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center showed sporadic delays due to staffing throughout the day at airports in Baltimore, Orlando and Charlotte, N.C. Experts expect these problems to start cascading, the same way flights nationwide are affected when a storm grounds planes in one region. The FAA anticipates that staffing reductions will affect up to 6,700 flights a day, delaying one out of every three air passengers. The nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, is expected to see maximum delays of 210 minutes.
The possibility of such a snarl has not gone over well with industry groups. On Friday, two trade organizations, Airlines for America and the Regional Airline Association, joined with the Air Line Pilots Association union to file suit in federal court seeking to halt the furloughs for controllers. The U.S. court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied the emergency stay the groups sought and set a May 22 deadline for the two sides to file documents. The FAA says the across-the-board nature of the sequestration budget cuts has given the agency has no choice but to trim personnel expenses by 10 percent. The lawsuit partners, as well as the Global Business Travel Association and many lawmakers, have criticized the agency’s plan, saying the FAA has greater discretion in how it makes cuts but has chosen to inconvenience the public for political reasons. huffingtonpost.com; npr.org
If New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has his way, crews will break ground on a new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport early next year. In addition to the new 30-gate terminal with three concourses, the $826 million redevelopment plan calls for building a short-term parking garage and hotel. Construction would take place between Interstate 10 and the existing runways, which would not need to be reconfigured. On the opposite side of the east-west runway, the existing 54-year-old terminal and the newest concourse would be renovated for use by noncommercial flights, while the older concourses would be demolished. The project is intended to lower costs to encourage airlines to offer more flights into the city and to help the airport better accommodate modern aircraft, security requirements and highway traffic. Landrieu’s goal is to have the terminal ready in time for celebrations of the city’s 300th anniversary in 2018. The New Orleans Aviation Board still needs to make its final recommendation. nola.com
More than a third of travelers have taken an item other than toiletries from their hotel room, according to booking service hotels.com, which included a question about pilfered items in its 2013 Amenities Survey. Overall, 13 percent of all travelers admitted to taking a magazine or book, 11 percent said they’d taken linens or towers, 3 percent said they’d taken a robe, 1 percent said they’d taken a pillow and 7 percent said they’d taken something else, including such furnishings as clocks, lamps and artwork. Danish travelers were the least likely to pocket hotel property, with 88 percent saying they never have done so (or perhaps they’re just more likely to lie about it). U.S. and Chinese travelers were tied at 23rd out of 29 nationalities, with 66 percent proclaiming their innocence. Colombian travelers were the only nationality for whom a majority, 57 percent, admitted to taking an item. In addition, the survey found that 29 percent of guests are willing to pay more for a room with a view, and 56 percent said that free Wi-Fi is the No. 1 factor they consider when choosing a hotel for business travel. hospitalitynet.org
PHX Sky Train, courtesy of City of Phoenix – Aviation
The first phase of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s new people-mover system opened this week, connecting the airport’s busiest terminal to economy parking lots and the region’s light rail system. On Monday, PHX Sky Train started carrying passengers to and from Terminal 4, which serves 80 percent of passengers at the airport, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Automated, electric trains depart Terminal 4 every three to five minutes, offering a two-minute ride to the parking lots and a five-minute ride to the rail station. Departing passengers are able to print boarding passes at PHX Sky Train stations, and those flying Southwest Airlines or US Airways can check their bags.
By 2015, the people mover will also connect with terminals 2 and 3, replacing shuttle buses that currently drive passengers along Sky Harbor Boulevard. The project has received LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. phoenix.gov
Bell Trans van with the Gray Line logo
One the largest international sightseeing brands once again has a presence in Las Vegas. Transportation company AirBridge Tours of Las Vegas last month partnered with Gray Line Worldwide, which operates tours in more than 700 locations around the world, to license the Gray Line Las Vegas name for day trips that take visitors from The Strip to Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and other locations. AirBridge Tours also is sublicensing the Gray Line name and logo to Bell Trans, which offers limo service, charter lines, and shuttles to and from McCarran International Airport. Founded 20 years ago, AirBridge Tours was able to grow through the recession while other companies struggled, including the previous Gray Line Las Vegas licensee, Coach America, which filed for bankruptcy one year ago. informermg.com
A number of lawsuits convinced the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to delay the closure of 149 air traffic control towers until June 15. The agency had planned to start shutting down the towers, which are part of a program that uses contractors rather than FAA employees to monitor traffic at smaller airports, starting Sunday as a means of meeting a $637 million budget cut mandated by Congress as part of the sequester. Dozens of affected airports and groups representing tower operators filed suit to stop the FAA on the basis that closing the towers would violate safety guidelines. Many of the cases have been combined by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The FAA says it needs time to deal with the legal challenges, review safety issues and figure out how to accommodate airports that want to keep their towers open by funding operations themselves. associationsnow.com
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appears poised to allow airline passengers to use tablet computers and other portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing. While the FAA declined to comment officially, The New York Times technology blogger Nick Bilton says the agency hopes to relax rules governing use of such devices by the end of the year, citing anonymous members of an industry group studying the issue. The group—which includes representatives from consumer electronics and aircraft manufacturers, flight attendant unions and the Federal Communications Commission—first met in January and will release its findings within the next few months. The changes will not address cell phones, which will still need to be turned off or switched to airplane mode during flights, but at least travelers who prefer e-books to print won’t have to put down the latest page-turner in the middle of their trip. nbcnews.com
Most travelers would probably welcome an unexpected trip to Ireland, but the excitement of visiting the Emerald Isle was probably lost on Hendrix, a 6-year-old English springer spaniel who accidentally ended up on a trans-Atlantic flight last week. The dog’s family was in the process of moving to Arizona and arranged to have the pooch placed in the cargo hold of a United Airlines flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Somewhere between baggage check and the plane, something went wrong and Hendrix ended up on a flight to Shannon, Ireland. The airline realized the mistake and notified the family before the Phoenix flight landed. The dog had a two-hour layover—during which he was cleaned, fed and walked—before being put on a return flight back to New Jersey. The airline says it is looking into the incident and taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. abcnews.go.com
There have been varied reactions to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announcement this week that it was relaxing rules that prohibit knives on planes. Starting April 25, passengers will be able to carry small blades less than 2.36 inches long and 0.5 inches wide, as well as pointy sports equipment such as pool cues and baseball bats. Speaking on CNN, former TSA chief Kip Hawley said that the policy change actually doesn’t go far enough, and that fliers ought to be able to “bring anything you want that is pointy and sharp” up to and including battles axes and machetes . The idea is that, thanks to reinforced cockpit doors installed after 9/11, there’s no way that a terrorist armed with a pocket knife would be able to injure the pilots or bring down a plane.
Of course, that’s little comfort to the airline workers back in the cabin. The Flight Attendants Union Coalition is actively opposing the new policy, and a petition started by flight attendants opposed to the change already has more than 9,000 signatures on the White House’s We the People website. The petition has 30 days to garner 100,000 signatures, at which point an administration official will consider and respond to the appeal. The president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, whose members include federal air marshals, says the group will lobby Congress to roll back the policy through legislation. The Coalition of Airline Pilot Associations says it also opposes knives of any kind on flights. npr.org
Like most of us, the FAA probably had never even heard of the "Harlem Shake" until the video craze went viral in last month. The video meme, or something that becomes popular and emulated on the Internet, typically involves one person (often wearing a helmet or mask) in the middle of the screen dancing to the song "Harlem Shake" by techno artist Baauer, while others around him or her appear oblivious. When the beat changes, the video cuts to everyone dancing crazily. Some of Colorado College's ultimate frisbee team filmed their own version of the video on a Frontier Airlines flight (along with several game passengers on board), and now the FAA is investigating weather that constitued a flight risk to the crew and passengers during the trip. Flying used to be so much more civilized. usatoday.com
It was only a matter of time before Gangnam Style took over the travel industry, too. Currently, the most watched Youtube video ever (1.36 billion views, or more than the population of China), "Gangnam Style," by South Korean musician Psy, is drawing people to the district that is the song's namesake. Gangnam, a 15-mile district in Seoul, South Korea, is embracing the popularity with tours and billboards promoting itself with the song, according to The New York Times. Meeting planners can have their groups check out the many cafes (coffee is prominently mentioned in the song), although many will find entertainment and an energetic nightlife in the district, as well as plenty of shops and restaurants. The Times recommends two spots at night: the hippie-inspired Rainbow and Cube, a "beer warehouse" which is like a bar where people serve themselves by pulling drinks from a refrigerator. nytimes.com
Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has purchased Island Air, the airline that serves only Hawaii. The billionaire Ellison is adding to his Hawaii assets, having purchased Lanai, an island off Maui, last year. There are reports that he plans to test out ideas for sustainable living and desalination (the process of turning salt water into drinkable fresh water) projects on that island. Plans for the airline include keeping it and its 245 employees intact for now. Island Air was restructuring its operations before the philanthropist and world's eight-richest man, said to be worth $41 billion, stepped into the picture. dailymail.co.uk
Colorado, the Texas panhandle, Kansas and every place in between seems to be in the throes of a massive blizzard, forcing the National Weather Service to issue a “do not travel” advisory for the next few days in these regions. The Texas panhandle saw snow as high as 2 to 3 inches per hour, while cities like Wichita could see up to 2 feet 2 inches of snow. The Kansas Department of Transportation stated that highways in the central part of the state had high levels of snow. The blizzard warning will last through tomorrow and possibly further. cnn.com
Next week, $85 billion cuts to federal agencies and programs are set to go into effect unless Congress and the White House act to prevent or stave them off. Called the sequester, what does foot-dragging in DC have to do with travel? According to some officials, the $85 billion in cuts, which go into effect on March 1, will mean less air traffic controllers and fewer custom and border agents, meaning more delayed flights and less people to help with security checks. So the next time your in that long line or your flight is two hours late, you can blame Washington...again. politico.com
We’ve heard about long stays, but this is ridiculous. Soccer star David Beckham has checked into the Hotel Le Bristol Paris and won’t be checking out until mid-July, just in time for summer holiday! The stay is part of Beckham’s trek back to European soccer leagues, as he’s doing a stint with Paris Saint-Germain club. For those thinking about some European events, the Hotel Le Bristol does have six ballrooms and 188 guest rooms. hotelchatter.com