For the week of Nov. 17, 2009
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
Seat Reassignment. On AirTran Airways flights, you can pay to upgrade from economy to business class, even after boarding the plane. So, if you're stuck next to an unsavory seatmate, just give the flight attendant the extra $49$99 for an upgrade.
Indy City Hub. The Indianapolis International Airport opened on Nov. 11, complete with a 13-foot model of a Boeing 737, lots of security lanes, check-in kiosks, restaurants and shopping. Airlines serving the new hub: AirTran, Continental, United and others.
High-Tech Body Scans. The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its millimeter-wave technology to the Atlanta and Indianapolis airports, making a total of 17 airports that now use the screening process. Passengers are randomly selected for the full body scan, which is used to detect weapons and other threats concealed under clothes; to protect passengers' privacy, the scans are reviewed by TSA officers in a remote location. People who don't want the scan can opt for a traditional full-body pat-down.
Wi-Fi in the Sky. Virgin America will offer in-flight Internet service starting Nov. 22, just in time for Thanksgiving travel. Access will cost $9.95 for short flights, and $12.95 for long hauls. The first wired flights will be on the West Coast, but the airline plans to extend service to the whole fleet by Spring 2009.
Christmas in Paris. OpenSkies is offering flat-bed business-class seats from New York to Paris for $1,100 one-way, and New York to Amsterdam for $1,050 one-way. Prem+ class seats are going for $600 one-way to Paris and $550 one-way to Amsterdam; you'll get 140 degrees of recline and 52 inches of legroom. Fares are available until Nov. 21 for travel through March 31, 2009.
Beijing Bound. If you're headed to China to do business, Aloft, the affordable hotel geared to the Gen Y generation with lobbies designed expressly for hanging out, socializing and working has opened its first overseas outpost in Beijing. (See 10 things to do in Beijing.) Tower 2 No. 25, Yuanda Road, Haidian District, Beijing; 86-(0)10-8889-8000
L.A. Addition. The new SLS Hotel in L.A. features a Jekyll-and-Hyde lobby: Enter on one side for a serene, low-key experience; on the other, you get a hopping, nightclub-like scene (the owner also owns several L.A. clubs). Located between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, the hotel has a pool, tapas bar, pâtisserie and Spanish restaurant, plus furnishings designed by Philippe Starck. According to the hotel's rep, the designer's innovation was to put the bed in the middle of the room, so the "businessman can work while watching his wife sleep." 465 South La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles; 310-247-0400
Cheap NYC Sleeps. It's near impossible to find a decent hotel room under three figures in Manhattan, but now there's The Jane. The hotel is famous for having sheltered the survivors of the Titanic, and the rooms do sort of resemble ship's berths, with a mere 50 sq. ft. of space and a shared bathroom down the hall. But they're just $99 a night, putting the hip hotel's price within hostel range: Private rooms cost $125 per night at the Big Apple Hostel and $80 at the Chelsea International Hostel downtown. The Jane is still undergoing renovations, but when the revamp is finished, bigger rooms with private baths will be available. 13 Jane Street, New York City; 212-924-6700
Leave Your Heart... The 100-year-old Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, originally modeled after the grand hotels of Europe, has two holiday packages. For skating buffs, $169 per night buys a room, plus ice-skate rental and entry to the skating rink on Union Square right outside the hotel's front door. For shopaholics, $234 gets visitors a room and a $100 gift certificate to Macy's nearby. The hotel is currently undergoing a $40 million renovation, which is being done floor by floor, according to the hotel rep, so as not to disturb guests. Offers are good through Jan. 4, 2009. 335 Powell Street, San Francisco; 415-397-7000.
Good Glug. Beaujolais Nouveau arrives in stores and restaurants on Nov. 20. Vintner George DuBoeuf, who produces some 30 million bottles of the stuff a year, predicts a full-bodied vintage for 2008, since the September growing season was dry; the wine, which goes straight from the vine to your table without aging, is meant to be drunk immediately. Look for uncorking events in Miami, New York and Las Vegas, which will celebrate the wine's first tasting at 12:01 p.m., according to tradition and French law or just check your local wine shop for the $10$12 bottles.
Ride the Rails. VIA Rail Canada is determined to tempt you aboard its long-haul train with 50% rebates if you book your tickets online before Dec. 11. If you have the free time, the "Canadian" route, for instance, departs Toronto, passes through the prairies and the Rockies and ends at Canada's Pacific coast five days later. VIA Rail promises down duvets in your sleeper, local wines to sip in the observation car, regional menus in the dining car and attentive staff.
Price Hikes. The National Business Travel Association (NBTA) predicts that airfares will rise next year to their highest level since 2001, with increases of 7% to 10%. The NBTA also predicts up to 3% increases in car rental costs and up to 4% hikes in hotel rates. According to major hotel-industry watchers, Smith Travel Research and PKF Hospitality, hotels are in for hardship, with occupancy and revenue down.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Collector's Cabinet. New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art bids farewell to its director, who has worked at the museum for 45 years, the last 30 as its head, with the exhibit The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions a hodgepodge of 300 works of art, from a wooden Egyptian statue to Jasper John's White Flag, collected under de Montebello. Through Feb. 1, 2009. 1000 Fifth Avenue, at 82nd Street, New York City; 212-535-7710
Collector's Cabinet, Part 2. Los Angeles's LACMA has Hearst the Collector on view. Immortalized in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, the newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst was said to have provided 25% of the art on the market in the 1920s and '30s. The LACMA collection includes 17th-century armor and tapestries, as well as Hearst's sculpture and paintings. Through Feb. 1, 2009. 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles; 323-857-6000
Graphic Fantastic. A retrospective of conceptual artist Sol LeWitt opens this week at Mass MoCA in North Adams, Mass. Featuring 100 works created over the last 40 years, the artist himself collaborated on the exhibit before his death in 2007. It opens Nov. 16, and will stay up for 25 years. 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA; 413-662-2111
SHOPPING & SERVICES
The Doctor Is In. If you're the sort that worries about getting back home in the event of a medical emergency, the air ambulance company AirMed International is offering a travel insurance packet, allowing for emergency airlifting out of any country back to a hospital in the U.S. The cost: $95 for 14 days, or $250 for a year, no medical physical required. The Mayo Clinic uses this company for medical evacuations. Check the AirMed website for more information.
Eastern Promise. Have you been laid-off from your job with no prospects? Join the club. If you're looking for some adventure, you can get a six-month work visa in Singapore, which is a good springboard for exploring the rest of Asia. You must be under 30 years old with a college degree to apply. Click here for listings of temp jobs; click here for permanent work. You don't need a job before arriving. See 10 things to do in Singapore.