Northeast Braces for Second Major Winter Storm in Less Than a Week, Airlines Issue Travel Waivers

Northeast Braces for Second Major Winter Storm in Less Than a Week, Airlines Issue Travel Waivers

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The Northeast is bracing for its second winter storm in less than a week. This time around, it’s Winter Storm Quinn. The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York’s Hudson Valley and throughout much of New England. Several cities along the East Coast are expected to see the brunt of the storm, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Albany, Hartford, Portland and — to a lesser extent — Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Heavy snow and strong winds are expected to cause the most disruption, with power outages and downed trees. The storm is expected to start Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, but the most snow and powerful winds should accumulate and persist through Wednesday and into Thursday. The Weather Channel is predicting Quinn to intensify as it tracks northeastward through Wednesday.

Image by the Weather Channel.
Image by the Weather Channel.

There is some good news for people of the Northeast: Winter Storm Quinn is not expected to be as powerful as Winter Storm Riley from last week.

In anticipation of the storm and the havoc it’s expected to wreak on air travel, many airlines have issued travel waivers for parts of the Northeast. For travelers with flexible plans, you can potentially avoid the mess without penalty by taking advantage of one of the waivers issued by nine airlines thus far.

If you can’t delay your itinerary, airlines aren’t going to be responsible for paying for your meals or hotels in the case of weather-related delays/cancellations. But some top cards have flight delay/cancellation insurance that can reimburse you for weather issues, including the Citi Prestige ($500 per passenger for 3+ hour delay), the Chase Sapphire Reserve ($500 per ticket for 6+ hour or overnight delay) and Chase Sapphire Preferred ($500 per ticket for 12+ hour or overnight delay).

As of 8:30 Tuesday morning, here are the travel waivers covering this storm:

Alaska Airlines

  • Travel dates: March 6-7
  • Airports affected: Boston (BOS); New York – Kennedy (JFK); New York – LaGuardia (LGA); Newark (EWR); Philadelphia (PHL); Washington – Reagan (DCA); Washington – Dulles (IAD); Baltimore (BWI)
  • Must have purchased your ticket by March 5
  • Rebooked travel must be completed by March 13
  • You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all. Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before March 7. Rebook your flight or apply for a refund online.

American Airlines

  • Travel dates: March 7-8
  • Airports affected: Albany, New York (ALB); Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE); Boston, Massachusetts (BOS); Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (MDT); Hartford, Connecticut (BDL); Islip, New York (ISP); New Haven, Connecticut (HVN); New York Kennedy, New York (JFK); New York LaGuardia, New York (LGA); Newark, New Jersey (EWR); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PHL); Providence, Rhode Island (PVD); State College, Pennsylvania (SCE); Stewart Newburgh, New York (SWF); White Plains/Westchester County, New York (HPN); Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania (AVP); Williamsport, Pennsylvania (IPT)
  • Must have purchased your ticket by March 5
  • Rebook travel anytime between March 5-11
  • You can’t change your origin or destination city. Must rebook in same cabin or pay the difference.

Delta

  • Travel dates: March 7-8
  • Airports covered: Albany, NY (ALB); Allentown, PA (ABE); Boston, MA (BOS); Harrisburg, PA (MDT); Hartford, CT (BDL); New York – Kennedy, NY (JFK); New York – LaGuardia, NY (LGA); Newark, NJ (EWR); Newburgh, NY (SWF); Philadelphia, PA (PHL); Scranton, PA (AVP); Providence, RI (PVD); White Plains, NY (HPN)
  • Ticket must be reissued by March 11
  • Rebooked travel must begin no later than March 11
  • When rescheduled travel occurs beyond March 11, the change fee will be waived. However, a difference in fare may apply.
  • Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity, one year from date of original issue. If travel is not able to be rescheduled within these guidelines, customers may cancel their reservation and apply any unused value of the ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a period of one year from the original ticket issuance. Applicable change fee and fare difference will apply for new travel dates. Final travel must be completed by end of ticket validity.

Frontier

  • Travel dates: March 5-6
  • Airports covered: Madison, WI (MSN); Milwaukee, WI (WKE); Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (MSP)
  • Must have bought your ticket by March 4
  • Rebook travel anytime through March 19
  • Origin and destination cities may be changed. Customers whose flights are cancelled may request a refund. Online Refund Form.

JetBlue

  • Travel dates: March 7
  • Airports covered: Albany, NY (ALB); Boston, MA (BOS); Hartford, CT (BDL); Newark, NJ (EWR); New York, NY (JFK, LGA); Newburgh, NY (SWF); Philadelphia, PA (PHL); Providence, RI (PVD); White Plains, NY (HPN); Worcester, MA (ORH)
  • Must have bought your ticket by March 5
  • Rebook travel anytime through March 10
  • To rebook travel or request a refund online, click here. If you are already checked in for your flight, call JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) for assistance with rebooking or a credit.

Southwest

  • Travel dates: March 6 (3:00pm onward) through March 8
  • Airports covered: Albany (ALB); Baltimore (BWI); Boston (BOS); Hartford (BDL); Long Island MacArthur (ISP); Manchester (MHT); New York LaGuardia (LGA); Newark (EWR); Philadelphia (PHL); Portland (PWM); Providence (PVD); Washington Reagan National (DCA); Washington-Dulles (IAD)
  • Customers who are holding reservations on these dates, and want to alter their travel plans may rebook in the original class of service or travel standby (within 14 days of their original date of travel between the original city-pairs and in accordance with Southwest’s accommodation procedures) without paying any additional charge.

Spirit

  • Travel dates: March 7
  • Airports covered: Boston, MA (BOS); Hartford, CT (BDL); New York, NY (LGA); Newark, NJ (EWR); Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
  • Modification charge/fare difference waived through March 10. After this date, the modification charge is waived, by a fare difference may apply.

United

  • Travel dates: March 7-8
  • Airports covered: Albany, NY (ALB); Allentown, PA (ABE); Boston, MA (BOS); Harrisburg, PA (MDT); Hartford, CT (BDL); New York/Newark, NJ (EWR); New York-Kennedy, NY (JFK); New York-LaGuardia, NY (LGA); Philadelphia, PA (PHL); Providence, RI (PVD); State College, PA (SCE); White Plains, NY (HPN); Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA (AVP)
  • The change fee and any difference in fare will be waived for new United flights departing on or before March 14, as long as travel is rescheduled in the originally ticketed cabin (any fare class) and between the same cities as originally ticketed.​​

Virgin America

  • Travel dates: March 6-7
  • Airport covered: Boston (BOS); New York, Kennedy (JFK); Newark (EWR); LaGuardia (LGA); Philadelphia (PHL); Washington DC, Reagan (DCA); Washington DC, Dulles (IAD); Baltimore (BWI)
  • Tickets must have been purchased by: March 5
  • [Virgin] will waive the change fees and the difference in the price of the ticket if the new travel is booked to or from the affected cities in the same cabin and completed on or before March 13, 2018.  Additional taxes and fees may apply. You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all. Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before March 13, 2018.
  • To modify an existing reservation during this period, you may contact [Virgin America’s] Call Center at 1.877.FLY.VIRGIN* (877.359.8474) for assistance. Or manage your reservation online: Change your flight. Cancel or refund your flight.

No waivers at this time from: Hawaiian.

Featured image by SOPA Images / Getty Images.

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March 6, 2018 at 02:31PM

HoodCelebrityy and Dancehall’s New, Global Faces

HoodCelebrityy and Dancehall’s New, Global Faces

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I recently heard a remix of “Famous,” by the Moroccan-American artist
French Montana, on the radio station Hot 97, here in New York. Montana’s
song, which has been out since last summer, is a light dancehall bop in
the vein of Drake’s “Views”—a plea to resist the trappings of fame for
the sake of a relationship. The remix adds a soft verse from Tina
Pinnock, the rising dancehall artist, from the Bronx by way of Portmore,
Jamaica, who performs under the name HoodCelebrityy. With her guest
appearance, she dismisses his insecurities: “Stop complain and mek we
live it up,” she sings. “Can’t deal with the fame? Baby, then give it
up.” Hoodcelebrityy isn’t slowing down, she insists, even if Montana
begs for the rest of the track. How could she stay home with a name that
great?

Artists outside of Jamaica are creating a growing portion of the
dancehall heard around the world today. Exported from Jamaica since the
nineteen-eighties, the sweltering street music has seeped into the local
sounds in London, New York City, and Toronto, where clusters of
second-generation fans seek out new dubs to play at parties. In London,
local hits, such as E. Mak’s
Yo” and Lotto Boyzz’s
Plantain & Dumplin,”
play off the sounds of early-aughts dancehall, with savvy new slang and
inside jokes. Stefflon Don, who was born in Birmingham, England, sings
somewhere between Rihanna and Spice, picking up exactly where Nicki
Minaj’s remix of “Hold Yuh,” by the Jamaican artist Gyptian, left off.
The Toronto comedian Papi Tré’s brilliant dancehall parody of
“Magnolia”
 is one of my
favorite songs right now, and it isn’t even a real song. And, so far,
HoodCelebrityy’s new single, “Walking
Trophy
,” is New York’s
best addition to the bunch. Over steel drum-pads, she spins an ode to
glowing skin and tight jeans (in a word, confidence), with an ear for
melody and delivery on par with Vybz Kartel. The lyrics read like she
ghostwrote them for a male artist and then decided to just do the job
herself.

Like film studios, record labels know that worldwide consumers make the
difference between a minor and major hit. Most of these
second-generation dancehall tracks gain popularity on YouTube, where
dedicated channels like G.R.M. Daily churn out videos from local
artists, betting that a handful of clips will blow up. The average
Stefflon single has millions of YouTube plays, and she recently linked
up with Kevin (Coach K) Lee, the Atlanta music manager behind Migos and
Gucci Mane, to guide and develop her career in the States. Nigerian
artists have long recognized dancehall as a potent tool to give the
Afrobeat sound more global appeal; Burna Boy is the country’s standout
star, and he recently released a two-part
video
 for
a pair of dancehall singles with London’s Lily Allen and J Hus.

Although Jamaica-based artists like Popcaan, Masicka, and Alkaline have
provided a steady stream of excellent homegrown records in recent years,
and music’s borders have been opened through streaming apps, red-tape
and visa issues are increasingly stalling out the careers of promising
dancehall artists. In 2016, the music distributor Johnny Wonder argued
that in order for Jamaican acts to compete globally, they need the
support of radio abroad. “For a song to get added to a Hot 97 or a Power
105,” he told the Jamaica Gleaner, “the artist has to be able to
travel to the U.S. and promote the song for the station. They are going
to expect you to do jingles and perform at their events, but the artists
cannot travel, so that is one of the reasons why some of our top artists
don’t get added.” The void left in their absence has put cities in
musical dialogue with one another for the first time, realizing their
local movements were in sync all the while.

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March 6, 2018 at 02:14PM

United Hits ‘Pause’ on Its Bad Idea to Replace Bonuses With Lottery-Style Perks

United Hits ‘Pause’ on Its Bad Idea to Replace Bonuses With Lottery-Style Perks

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United Continental Holdings Inc. retreated from a plan to replace modest employee bonus payments with a chance for a lucky few to win luxury cars and six-figure cash prizes, following a backlash from the airline’s unions.

The company is “pressing the pause button” on any changes to the bonuses, President Scott Kirby said Monday in a message to employees, just three days after announcing the new approach. He pledged to solicit feedback from employee groups after staunch opposition to his plan to replace steady payouts with high-stakes drawings for prizes including $100,000 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans.

“Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you,” Kirby wrote.

The dust-up over the bonus lottery showed that United is struggling to overcome a legacy of poor labor relations since its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines. Employees began expressing outrage on worker forums and complaining to union representatives shortly after the changes were announced March 2.

“You can give them some credit for reversing their decision, but it should’ve never happened,” said CFRA Research analyst Jim Corridore. The airline has been plagued by “misstep after misstep after misstep” since the merger, he said.

‘Unilaterally Determined’

“To be clear — this program was not negotiated with the union. It was unilaterally determined by management,” Ken Diaz, president of United’s chapter of the Association of Flight Attendants, said in a letter to his membership. “While we were surprised by some of the components of the program, there is no part of the reaction by flight attendants and other employees that surprises us.”

Employees were upset that what had been a reliable source of income was now subject to a drawing. The Chicago-based airline also added a new wrinkle: To be eligible, workers needed perfect attendance for the quarter. The company traditionally rewarded people with small payments when it hit certain on-time and completion rate targets.

Under the system proposed by Kirby, more than 1,300 workers would win cash prizes of as much as $100,000. The second prize was to win one of 10 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans, or $40,000 in cash. More modest winnings were also available, but workers balked because the majority of United’s almost 90,000 employees would forgo quarterly checks in the $250 range.

While the bonuses were discretionary and not part of any contract, “it starts to become a counted-on piece of income, and now that income might not be there,” said Mike Klemm, whose International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers represents around 28,000 United employees.

Southwest Airlines Co. has its own lottery system that awards a small number of employees cash prizes based on the number of company goals achieved each year, a spokeswoman for the carrier said. The drawings, part of a broader program that awards workers acknowledged by peers, didn’t replace another reward system, she said.

–With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Michael Sasso from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: United Continental Holdings Inc. retreated from a plan to replace modest employee bonus payments with a chance for a lucky few to win luxury cars and six-figure cash prizes. Bloomberg

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March 6, 2018 at 02:03PM

The Most Dangerous Post in Government

The Most Dangerous Post in Government

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Monopolyhouse590x591pre.While one might be excused for believing that the most powerful (thus, potentially dangerous) political position is the Chief Elected Official, I’ve come to believe that the individual with an unchecked power to put businesses out of business is the Assessor.

In some locales, the Assessor is appointed; in others, elected. In some, they require educational certification; in others, no experience is required. And yet, these individuals have the power to assign property values that result in property taxes being levied.

Over the past year, I have seen a number of blow-ups across the United States concerning Assessors that have, after years of ignoring their hotel community, come swooping in to re-assess the sector. In one case, a hotel was faced with a $1 million increase in property tax due. In another town, the lead hotel reported that his property tax had jumped 160% in one year.

The excuse from the Assessor’s office in the first example was that they hadn’t increased assessments during the recession in an attempt to “help” the hotel community during the downturn. Of course, the resulting unexpected $1 million invoice isn’t exactly helping anyone (except the City).

Not that this blog is a platform for tax law reform…but, how does a single office have the authority to place a business on the precipice of solvency when its actions are neither easily anticipated nor fair?

I’m not saying that the hotels in question shouldn’t be paying higher property taxes. If the land upon which they sit increases in value (based primarily on their own success), property taxes should go up. Just not by a million bucks (or 160%) in one year.

If an Assessor has the right to make up for missed increases in one fell swoop, the business should have the right to gradually achieve the new tax amount over the same number of years since the last assessment.

Just sayin’….

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March 6, 2018 at 01:38PM

Hilton CEO Says Brexit Is Hurting London Hotels

Hilton CEO Says Brexit Is Hurting London Hotels

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Brexit is beginning to weigh on London’s hotel market, according to Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., the second-biggest company in the global industry by rooms.

“Now that negotiations are going on, and it’s becoming more real — at least in London — it does feel like there’s a little bit of trepidation,” Christopher Nassetta, chief executive officer of Hilton, said in an interview in Berlin. “That’s showing up in the numbers.”

Hilton’s business in the U.K. capital is still growing, though at a much slower rate, Nassetta said, adding that it’s hard to pin it all on one specific reason. “Other parts of Europe are picking up the slack for that,” he said.

The company’s revenue per available room from its European hotels rose 6.6 percent last year, making it the second-best performing region behind Asia Pacific. The McLean, Virginia-based firm’s best-known London hotels include the Waldorf and the Hilton on Park Lane.

A surge in international and domestic tourism following the Brexit vote pushed occupancy to peak levels in 2017, according to data compiled by STR. “As that impact continues to fade, so does the potential for year-over-year growth in comparison to previously high performance values,” the research firm said in a February report.

–With assistance from Sharon Smyth

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Andrew Blackman from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Photo Credit: London Hilton on Park Lane. The company’s CEO says that Brexit is hurting business hotels in the city. Hilton Worldwide

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March 6, 2018 at 01:35PM

Can artificial intelligence make baggage tracking better?

Can artificial intelligence make baggage tracking better?

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IATA Resolution 753, which comes into effect this June, commits airlines to keeping track of baggage movements and aims to significantly reduce mishandled and misdirected bags. But it also creates new volumes of data, which SITA reports, could be handled more efficiently with AI tools like machine learning, robotics and predictive analytics.

In a new report, Intelligent Tracking: A Baggage Management Revolution, SITA shares a vision of interconnected smart devices and applications that can inform each other of baggage movements with limited human intervention.

By embracing new technologies and refining processes, the air transport industry has reduced its baggage mishandling cost from $4.22 billion to $2.1 billion over the past decade.

The objective of Resolution 753 is to reduce that figure further, keeping passengers happy and protecting airlines from liability.

It all starts with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging. These tags are generally accepted as the most reliable way to keep a unique identifier on each piece of luggage transported, both because RFID tags are relatively easy and affordable to implement and because they able to put up with the inevitable wear and tear of transport.

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) became the first international airport to adopt RFID technology in its baggage handling system in 2008. It was also the first airport to build RFID readers into its robotic baggage handling systems—Stack@Ease—that help airport workers load bags into Unit Load Devices (ULDs), effectively automating departure baggage reconciliation.

In the SITA report, Chris Au Young, general  anager, Smart Airport, Airport Authority Hong Kong, credits RFIDs with significantly improving tracking accuracy at the airport and explains how AI is helping to make the process of tracking more efficient.

“Our baggage tag (barcode with integrated RFID chip) has enjoyed a successful read rate of close to 99%. Before the implementation of RFID, the read rate of a traditional barcode-only baggage tag was only about 80%. This is a significant difference given the fact that HKIA handled about 80,000 departure bags every day, and close to 110,000 departure bags per day during peak seasons.”

“Today, we use RFID technology comprehensively in baggage handling, from departure, to transfer and to arrival. It enhances operational efficiency and security, providing better passenger experience. Passengers with MyTAG (an RFID luggage tag) arriving at HKIA will now be notified on smartphones when their luggage is delivered at the baggage reclaim belt. Hence, instead of crowding at the reclaim belt hoping to get their bag firsthand, passengers can make better use of their time while waiting for the baggage.”

“In response to requests from airlines to provide Baggage Processing Messages (BPMs) for both arrival and departure bags, we have added additional RFID readers throughout our baggage handling system to increase track points. We have implemented a platform for the distribution of BPMs to airlines for arrival baggage reconciliation and an arrival bag scanning service will be launched in Q3 2018.

“One of the challenges is for airlines is to provide terminating BSMs (Baggage Source Messages) and BMMs (Baggage Manifest Messages) to facilitate the arrival baggage reconciliation process and as an airport operator, we will do our best to support.

“We also developed a trolley management system that uses machine learning techniques, image-based technologies and existing surveillance CCTV cameras to monitor baggage trolley availability. With over 12,000 trolleys moving around the terminals and transportation center and over 100 trolley pick up points, timely recirculating to ensure these pickup points are always filled is a challenging task. The Real-time Trolley Supply Monitoring System has achieved 92% accuracy, greatly reducing the need for manual checking of trolleys, and the service level of trolley availability for passengers in the baggage reclaim hall has been improved.

“With artificial intelligence (AI), end-to-end bag tracking can be even more complete. AI-powered video analytics will be able to track the transport of baggage containers from plane-side to the baggage processing hall, providing passengers with better estimation on the baggage delivery status. We see there are opportunities to use AI in further optimizing the tracking of baggage and become part of the future standard in airport operations.”

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March 6, 2018 at 12:51PM

How I Saved Huge Miles Booking A Delta Flight With Partners

How I Saved Huge Miles Booking A Delta Flight With Partners

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I’ve got a compressed timeline trip to South America later this month and needed a return flight from Rio de Janeiro (GIG) to Atlanta (ATL). Business class is obviously preferred for long-haul trips, but getting back to Atlanta means two things:

  • Nonstop flights are operated by Delta, and that typically means a few hundred thousands SkyMiles for a business class seat.
  • Using SkyTeam or Star Alliance partners will result in multiple connections from South America to get home. Also, business class award seats will probably be recliners on a Copa 737-800 if I want to use Star Alliance miles or an Aeromexico 737 recliner seat if I want to use SkyTeam miles. Neither are desired.

I decided flying economy on the Delta nonstop would save me significant time and hopefully some miles compared to business class on other airlines. I headed out to find an economy award seat on Delta flight 60 from GIG-ATL, and by the time I had a ticket in my email, I saved 77,500 miles by booking the Delta flight with Virgin Atlantic miles instead of SkyMiles. Let’s look at my options and how I ended up booking.

Delta

I can often find great prices for economy seats on Delta’s own long-haul flights when booking with SkyMiles. But, it just so happens that the week I’m in Rio is not one of those times. Every day requires a painful 100,000 SkyMiles for an economy seat on the nonstop:

Adding insult to injury, some typical Delta nonsense means if you started in Sao Paulo (GRU) and flew to Rio to catch the nonstop, the price decreases 70% to 30,000 miles for an economy award seat:

This had me considering cutting my already compressed trip even further and hopping down to GRU just to catch a flight back to GIG and save a ton of miles. With availability for the nonstop flight not at the lowest SkyMiles level, I figured there was little hope that partner airlines would have availability. But, I took a look anyway and was thrilled with the results.

Flying Blue

The loyalty program of Air France and KLM can often have seats on Delta flights for fewer miles than Delta itself charges, but availability and carrier surcharges can be tough. There’s good news on one front here: surcharges are banned for all award tickets departing Brazil, so I knew if there was availability, any taxes and fees would be tolerable. To my surprise, even with Delta wanting 100,000 miles for a seat, Flying Blue had availability for my required date:

That’s a 75% savings in miles for $20 more in taxes and fees. I was pretty thrilled with this result and almost transferred 25,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards to Flying Blue when I remembered there was perhaps a third option to book the flight.

Virgin Atlantic

Anytime I look at booking a Delta flight, domestic or international, I check with Virgin Atlantic to see if there’s availability and the mileage required. You can’t search this particular Delta-operated route on the Virgin Atlantic website, so I called up Flying Club to request availability.

Again, with Delta wanting 100,000 SkyMiles for a seat and Virgin Atlantic not in the SkyTeam alliance like KLM and Air France’s Flying Blue, my expectations were low that Virgin Atlantic would have access to an award seat. So when the phone agent said he had two seats available, I was blown away. And when he quoted the miles, taxes and fees required (there isn’t a full award chart on Virgin Atlantic’s website for Delta), I couldn’t have been more excited:

The total came to 22,500 miles and $51.81 for what originally would have cost 100,000 miles with the same taxes and fees. That’s such a small number of miles to pay for a 10-hour flight. The icing on the cake is that I have Delta Platinum Medallion status as a result of a status match challenge from my now expired AA Executive Platinum status. That means a preferred seat with extra legroom for free at the time of booking and an Economy Comfort+ seat is a possibility later down the road.

I’ll sit the entire 10 hours in that seat, legs stretched out, with a huge grin on my face knowing I paid only 22,500 miles and $50 for the nonstop flight home. As a reminder, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will put award tickets on hold for 48 hours even with no miles in your account, so you can transfer Amex, Chase or Citi ThankYou points to your account.

Bottom Line

It certainly pays to be familiar with partner booking options. You need to ingrain in your thought process that before you ever book a Delta-operated award flight, you better check with Air France and Virgin Atlantic. Even better, check Virgin Atlantic pretty much any time you want to book an award ticket. Last week, I booked Air New Zealand business class from Auckland to Los Angeles for 62,500 Virgin Atlantic miles. This week is Rio to Atlanta for 77,500 miles less than the SkyMiles rate. The end result is a nonstop flight home and an extra day with wife and kids thanks to Virgin Atlantic.

Featured image by Shutterstock.

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March 6, 2018 at 12:31PM

News: ITB Berlin 2018: Hospitality sector expects economic boost from leading show

News: ITB Berlin 2018: Hospitality sector expects economic boost from leading show

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ITB Berlin 2018: Hospitality sector expects economic boost from leading show
ITB Berlin is one the largest travel trade shows in the world

ITB Berlin reflects worldwide dynamic developments and growth in the travel industry.

From March 7th-11th, the leading travel trade show will again be the industry’s meeting place and must-see event, devoting itself to innovative and forward-looking trends in the travel industry, politics and business.

In the future, ITB will present itself as an international umbrella brand and focus not only on promoting the annual event in Berlin.

This re-orientation on a global scale means a concentration of three formats, the trade shows in Germany (ITB Berlin), Singapore (ITB Asia) and China (ITB China), under one label.

At the 52nd edition of ITB Berlin around 10,000 tourism companies from 186 countries and regions will be represented on an area covering 160,000 square metres at the Messe Berlin fairgrounds.

Over 80 per cent of the exhibitors are from abroad.

Once again the organisers expect more than 100,000 international trade visitors seeking prosperous business opportunities as well as many thousand members of the public on the weekend, who will be able to find inspiration for their next trip.

“In 2018 ITB Berlin remains strongly in touch with the industry’s trends.

“We provide a forum for pressing issues such as overtourism, revolutionary forms of travel and digitalisation as well as topical themes such as luxury travel, technology and sustainability.

“ITB Berlin has firmly established itself as an international brand and above all stands for acquiring industry contacts from around the world and industry knowledge that is first-hand.

“It is the logical consequence of positioning ourselves as the leading market force and opinion-former of the global travel industry,” said Christian Göke, chief executive of Messe Berlin.

The focus is on this year’s partner region Mecklenburg-Vorpommer, which will have information on its wide range of products in a number of locations, including Hall 6.2. and 4.1.

The German federal state will also be organising the big opening ceremony on the eve of ITB Berlin at the CityCube Berlin.

More Information

ITB Berlin 2018 will be taking place from March 7th-11th and from Wednesday to Friday will be open to trade visitors only.

In 2017 a total of 10,000 companies and organizations from 184 countries exhibited their products and services to around 169,000 visitors, who included 109,000 trade visitors.

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March 6, 2018 at 12:29PM

Breakdown of the President’s Daily Briefing/Puppet Show

Breakdown of the President’s Daily Briefing/Puppet Show

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For much of the past year, President Trump has declined to participate in a practice followed by the past seven of his predecessors: He rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world. Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office. —The Washington Post

To members of the National Intelligence Community:

As you know, it is our duty to put together a Daily Brief for the President containing our nation’s most sensitive secrets.

As you also know, the President has requested that his briefings be relayed in the form of “a puppet show—preferably with sexy puppets.”

And thanks to the resourcefulness of our intelligence officers, and a crash course at Jim Henson Studios, we are now prepared to deliver a briefing that combines the classified information required to keep this country safe with the frenetic energy of “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”

Accordant with the wishes of our Commander-in-Chief, what follows is a breakdown of the top-secret intelligence we will be sharing this morning, as well as the roster of puppets that will be used to, in the President’s words, “ ‘Avenue Q’ it up.”

Agent Robert Woods, of the C.I.A., will be briefing the President on terrorist activity in Syria. He will be joined by Moofie the Talking Cow, a congenial bovine with a naughty sense of humor. When Agent Woods describes the battlefields of Aleppo as “devolving into utter chaos,” Moofie will chime in with “Udder chaos? Sounds like my wedding night!” Agent Woods and Moofie will pause for laughter, and then battle-rap the national-security implications of the Syria crisis before hitting each other in the face with cream pies.

After some cleanup, we’ll hear from Lieutenant General Stanley Birch, a commander in both Iraq wars, and Hannah Hippo, a busty hippopotamus wearing a negligee. For the length of time that “Fox & Friends” remains in commercial break, Birch and Hannah Hippo will duet on a ribald parody of “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” that explores schisms within Al Qaeda’s leadership.

Following a short intermission for snacks and photos with Hannah Hippo, we’ll run through intel collected by our European deep-cover agents as delivered by ALF, Princess Anna from “Frozen,” and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dressed as Bozo the Clown. General Dunford will get “You Can’t Do That on Television”-slimed after uttering the forbidden phrase (“read a book”) and ALF will compare the stickiness of the slime to the sticky situation in Poland involving white-nationalist militias.

At this point, if the President has not pulled out his phone to tweet about Don Lemon or to shop for nine-irons, a slime-drenched General Dunford will summarize intercepts from a Pakistani terrorist cell with the help of Mr. Snuffleupagus and special guest stars the Wiggles.

Ladies and gentlemen, no one said that the transformation of the President’s Daily Brief from classified memo to R-rated puppet show would be a walk in the park. It will be difficult to continually find ventriloquists who qualify for top-level security clearance, but all of us serve at the pleasure of the President—whether you’re a thirty-year veteran of the F.B.I. or a former production assistant on “Gullah Gullah Island.” We’re all here for one reason: to keep the country safe, and to keep the President from complaining that the security briefing isn’t as entertaining as the “InfoWars Radio Hour.”

So let’s take our directive and put together the most madcap, hyperactive rundown of international threats we can. To the intelligence community, I say, Godspeed. And break a leg.

Travel

via Everything http://ift.tt/2i2hEWb

March 6, 2018 at 12:14PM

News: ITB Berlin 2018: Rotana to showcase burgeoning portfolio

News: ITB Berlin 2018: Rotana to showcase burgeoning portfolio

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With the aim of capitalising on German tourists’ growing interest in the UAE’s diverse tourism offerings, Rotana will showcase its portfolio of hotels at ITB Berlin.

At its stand at the tourism fair, Rotana highlights its strong inventory of operational properties and upcoming hotels.

With a robust pipeline of 48 hotels and 12,437 rooms in 15 countries, the company continues to pursue its aggressive expansion plans.

In the UAE alone, there are 4,609 keys under various stages of development.

Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, a luxurious five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi which will soft open in this month, took centre stage at the exhibition.

Situated on Saadiyat Beach, a nine-kilometre stretch of pristine white sand on the sprawling Saadiyat Island, and featuring 354 luxurious rooms and suites in addition to 13 private beach villas, the luxury resort will be the 16th Rotana property to open in the UAE capital.

In addition, Rotana highlighted its two stunning new hotels in Dubai, the five-star Al Bandar Rotana, and Al Bandar Arjaan by Rotana, fully-furnished serviced apartments, located on the north shore of Dubai Creek.

Elegantly designed, the new properties feature a range of modern luxuries as well as state-of-the-art meeting and conference facilities and dining lounges, making them an ideal destination for both business and leisure travellers visiting the emirate.

Rotana has seen a steady growth in the number of European travellers, and German visitors in particular, to its 58 operating hotels and 15,522 keys around the world.

With its rising visitor footfalls, Germany has become the fourth largest feeder market for Rotana and its revenue contribution to the company’s business has increased to six per cent last year, as compared to five per cent in 2016.

Notably, the western European country is the second and third biggest market for Rotana properties in Abu Dhabi and Dubai respectively, with the German-speaking market contributing eight per cent of their total revenue.

“Driven by the federal and local governments’ efforts to boost the country’s economy and hospitality sector, the UAE has been witnessing a spurt in the German business and leisure visitor footfalls.

“Being the fourth largest feeder market, Germany is a strategically important market for Rotana and our strong participation at ITB Berlin is a testament to the importance we attach to this European country.

“To build on the success of our hotels as our German guests’ preferred accommodation destination, we have planned several new exciting properties in the UAE and other markets,” said Omer Kaddouri, president, Rotana.

Rotana has wrapped up a successful 2017 during which the company cemented its leadership position in the region with three new hotels, and with 12,437 keys currently under development, the company remains on track to achieve its goal of operating 100 hotels by 2020.

Rotana

Rotana currently manages a portfolio of over 100 properties throughout the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, with an aggressive expansion plan in place.

The company is considered the World’s Leading Business Hotel Brand by the World Travel Awards.

Rotana has chosen to acknowledge how precious time is by making all time spent in their range of hotels ‘Treasured Time’.

This means Rotana has pledged to understand and meet the individual needs of all guests.

In so doing, Rotana has evolved its product brands to include, Rotana Hotels & Resorts, Centro Hotels by Rotana, Rayhaan Hotels & Resorts by Rotana, Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana and The Residences by Rotana.

Further information on any Rotana property, its brands or reservations can be obtained by visiting the official website.

Travel

via Breaking Travel News http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/

March 6, 2018 at 12:09PM