Travel deals, news and updates for the week of March 9, 2009
AIRLINES & AIRPORTS
Safety First. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has fined Southwest a $7.5 million penalty for operating 46 planes on over 50,000 flights without performing mandatory maintenance checks for example, failing to monitor fuselage fatigue and cracking. Southwest also agreed to rewrite its maintenance manuals, add more on-site technical representatives to oversee maintenance, and designate a full-time head of quality assurance. The FAA says the airline is now in compliance with official regulations, so passengers shouldn't be worried; in fact, Southwest has agreed to go above and beyond mandatory safety checks, the FAA says.
Triple Play. American Airlines is offering triple AAdvantage miles for nonstop flights between Boston and three California cities L.A., San Francisco or San Diego (service to the last starts April 7). Use promotional code BOS3X when booking through May 31.
Please Support Our Travelers. The travel industry is asking Congress and President Obama to stop slamming executives for traveling. The decrease in business travel, the industry says, hurts the local economy, down to the bellboy and hotel housekeeper who are laid-off due to decreased occupancy. A survey by the U.S. Travel Association says that 20% of companies (that have not received taxpayer assistance) have canceled events due to recent focus on boondoggles. Which means, lots of rooms open in Vegas.
Spirit Charges Customers for Flying. Last week there was talk of RyanAir charging passengers to use the on-board toilet. This week Spirit Airlines announces that it will start charging you a fee to buy a ticket, even when you purchase online. It's $4.90 a pop, listed as a "passenger usage fee" and included in the advertised price of the ticket.
Slumdog Sights. Qantas is starting up service from seven Australian cities including Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to Mumbai starting June 2. The flights take off three times per week, connecting through Singapore. Outbound flight to Mumbai leave on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Return flights operate on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
First-Class Spa. Lufthansa has opened a spa lounge for first-class customers in Concourse B of the Frankfurt Airport. Passengers can book massages, facials and other treatments, and pay for them with miles or cash. The spa has six large private bathrooms, where you can shower or take a Jacuzzi or even play with the rubber duckies dressed in dirndls and lederhosen that float in the bath. There's also a room with a Wii console and fitness and sport games to pass the time. To round out the pampering, Lufthansa provides limousine service from the lounge for passengers whose flights depart from terminals A and C.
Member Bonus. Marriott Rewards members can redeem hotel points to buy a Priority Pass membership, which gives access to 600 VIP airport lounges worldwide. The price starts at 20,000 points and you can get one of three membership levels: standard (pay per lounge visit), standard plus (free access 10 times a year) or prestige (unlimited access). If you'd rather hang onto your hotel points, use cash and save up to 20% off the cost of standard plus ($199, with discount) and prestige ($359, with discount). Right now, you get three extra months of membership, making that 15 full months of thumbing your nose at the poor schlubs wandering around in the terminal.
HOTELS & PACKAGES
This Deal, Just For You. Morgans Hotel Group which includes the Royalton in New York City and St. Martins Lane in London has a new, more streamlined and user-friendly website. With full-screen pictures of the properties, you can see exactly what you're getting, and the calendar allows you to change dates easily, showing you immediately which rooms, at what price, are available. A related list of local restaurants, boutiques and things to do pops up as well if you book a room in London during the end of March, for example, the site recommends that you check out the Oxford and Cambridge boat race on the Thames on March 29. To celebrate the site launch, Morgans will give TIME.com readers an exclusive offer book two nights and get one night free (click here). Or call 800-606-6090 and use the promotional code SPTIME. Rates start at about $149. Book by March 31 for travel through May 31.
Easter Eggs. If you're planning to spend Easter in England, check out the Andaz, Hyatt's new brand, which is offering a stay at its Liverpool Street location, near Liverpool Street Station, for the cost of a chocolate Easter egg in Britain: 2.75 pounds ($4). Each week, starting March 10, the hotel will release a few rooms into the reservations system, which are available for stays between April 9 and 14. Hop to it! 40 Liverpool Street, London EC2; +44-(0)207-618-5061
For Warhol-ics. Warhol's Wide World at the Grand Palais museum in Paris is the first exhibition of 250 Andy Warhol paintings and prints about 150 of which are coming out of private collections for the first time. Six Concorde Hotels & Resorts located around Paris have an exclusive partnership with the museum to give their guests VIP tickets (you'll get to jump to the front of the line to see what some people are calling one of the biggest art events of the year). If you really want to keep with the art theme, ask for the Pissarro suite at the Hôtel du Louvre (one of the Concorde hotels), where the artist lived and painted. Room rates start at $260 and include breakfast and a box of Warhol-themed chocolates. The offer is good from March 18 to June 29.
Cheap Sleeps. If you're staying within the shores of the U.S. or Canada and are looking for modest accommodations, Country Inns & Suites, which offers free Wi-Fi, hot breakfast and morning newspapers, is giving guests 33% off each night of a three-night stay through April 30 at any of its 450 North American properties, plus a dining coupon at the T.G.I.Fridays restaurants. With the discount, nightly rates start at $70.
Three for Two. Stay two nights at any W Hotel worldwide and get a third night free of charge with the "Night on Us" promotion. Rates vary, but you can get a room starting at $169 in Chicago, $229 in New York City and $259 in L.A. Some properties ask for a Thursday through Saturday arrival, but others are more accommodating. Mention promotional code TNR through Sept. 30. 877-946-8357
Man's Best Friend. For pet-lovers who can't bear to leave their companions behind, Washington State's Salish Lodge & Spa, perched above the Snoqualmie Falls about half-an-hour from Seattle, has for the first time opened its doors to dogs. In the rooms, each of which has a wood-burning fireplace, you'll even fresh-baked dog biscuits and an in-room pet dining menu. There's an additional one-time $50 cleaning fee you'll have to pony up, even if Fido is neat as a pin. Rates start at $229. 6501 Railroad Avenue S.E., Snoqualmie, WA; 800-272-5474
'Tis the Season. It may be cold in the Northeast now, but Spring is coming and Washington, D.C., will soon hold its annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the 3,000 blooming trees that were given to the city in 1912 by the mayor of Tokyo and planted by First Lady Helen Taft. To entice you to visit, the Willard InterContinental hotel where the first Japanese delegation to the U.S. stayed in 1860, after trade opened between the two countries has a "Very Cherry" package. Choose your bonus: breakfast for two, a room upgrade or a second room at half-price for children under 18. There is also a Cherry Blossom tea served each afternoon, with cherry pastries, for $39. Room rates start at $349. The package is available March 13 to April 12 note that peak blooms are predicted April 3 to 9. 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.; 202-628-9100
Road Rules. If you're on the road and trying to watch your waistline, check out the newly re-launched Healthy Dining Finder, created with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Punch in your zip code and your desired price point, and you'll get a customized list of dining options along with dietitian-approved dishes, culled from the menus of 60,000 restaurant locations nationwide everything from the 420-calorie veggie burger at Burger King to the 430-calorie miso-marinated sea bass at Chaya in Venice, Calif. The site doesn't currently offer information for people with food or gluten allergies, but that's coming.
All Aboard! Riding on Amtrak's Acela Express trains just got cheaper. The railroad is offering 25% off prices for tickets purchased 14 days in advance, meaning a one-way ticket between Washington, D.C., and New York City can cost as little as $99, and between New York and Boston, just $79. The sale lasts through June 26, with limited availability.
Ship Ahoy. The Yachts of Seabourn company is holding a one-week "Stimulate your Summer" sale with up to 65% off any of 14 luxury European one- or two-week trips this summer. Sail around Corfu and the Croatian coast, or cruise Norway's fjords with fares starting at $2,840 per person, for a double-occupancy 277-sq.-ft. stateroom. Book between March 9 and 16 for travel in June and July. 800-929-9391
Fine Print. Amazon has released a Kindle app for the iPhone. If you already have a Kindle, the app allows you to read the same material on your Kindle and iPhone, without losing your place when you switch devices. Just download the free app from iTunes, register your iPhone with Amazon to send books to your device and start saving paper while saving the publishing industry.