Harriet Baskas

Flying to a beach? Here are 10 to consider

You’ve seen lots of list for the year’s best airports. But here’s a list of the world’s best beaches – according to beach expert and coastal expert Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University.

#1: Kailua Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii

Leatherman’s top pick this year is this “windward” shore beach.

“Because of the steady onshore winds and shallow waters, Kailua is a great place to learn to windsurf.  The beach gradually slopes offshore, and there are generally no hazardous water conditions—and lifeguards are on duty. 

#2: Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

Beach at Ocracoke, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Dr. Beach has awarded Ocracoke a No. 1 ranking.

Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place—and is #2 on Leatherman’s list this yerar.  

“Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country.  Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year.?

#3: Grayton Beach State Park, Florida panhandle

“This beach boasts of its sugar-white sand and emerald green water where development has been restrained so big sand dunes still dominate the landscape,” says Leatherman, “At the same time, all the amenities of great restaurants and accommodations are close by in the old town of Grayton Beach or Seaside. 

Here are the rest of this year’s Best Beaches:

# 4: Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York

#5: Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii

#6: Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

#7: Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida

#8: Hapuna Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

#9: Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

#10: Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Have a favorite beach of your own to suggest? Please share it here.

Fun, free way to get a better airplane seat

Here’s a fun – and free way- to get an upgraded airplane seat:

To draw attention to airline seat comfort (or the lack of it) Vanema, a company that makes lightweight aircraft seats, is giving passengers free seat cushions.

The company recently handed out 2,000 of its Octasupport seat cushions at Ljubljana Airport in Slovenia. In exchange, the company is asking passengers to provide feedback on their priority comfort issues.

“Our goal is to start a discussion about how next generation materials (like Octaspring) can improve passengers’ journeys, while helping airlines achieve their goals of cutting CO2 emissions,” says Venema company chairman Sandi Cesko.

In the next few months, the company plans to hand out these seat cushions at airport in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and, possibly, Austria.

So keep an eye out for the booths and grab a cushion.

It may be the cheapest and fastest way to upgrade your airplane seat. And you can the cushion with you for your next flight.

(Thanks to Emil Atanasov, Guest Services agent on Viking Jarl for helping with Wi-Fi today. )

Moving closer to free in-flight Wi-Fi

My story this week for CNBC online is all about the (possible) move to free Wi-Fi in the sky.

Who’s doing it? Should we have it? Will we have it? Give this story a read and let me know if you think we are indeed on our way to having free Wi-Fi in the sky:

It wasn’t all that long ago (2000 or 2006, depending how you measure) that being able to access the internet on an airplane was a pie-in-the-sky idea. 

Once the technology became generally available and airlines began equipping their planes with Wi-Fi service, passengers soon found they couldn’t bear to fly without it.

In 2013, 66% of passengers surveyed by Honeywell Aerospace said the availability of in-flight Wi-Fi would influence their flight selection.

By 2018, Inmarsat’s Inflight Connectivity Survey found that more than half (55%) of all airline passengers considered inflight Wi-Fi to be a crucial amenity. And almost as many (53%) said they’d be willing to forgo an alcoholic drink, tea, coffee, and other in-flight amenities in exchange for Wi-Fi access.

The price of staying connected in the sky

While free messaging is available on Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines and on a variety of international airlines, most all domestic airlines levy a charge for accessing the internet for email, streaming and other purposes.

And the cost to access that Wi-Fi varies. Sometimes widely. 

Southwest Airlines charges $8 a day for its Wi-Fi service, which prohibits access to Netflix and other high-bandwidth applications. Gogo, which provides inflight Wi-Fi to airlines such as United, Delta, Alaska and Air Canada, sells a variety of buy-before-you-fly passes. Order ahead and you’ll pay $7 for one hour of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights and $19 for 24 hours of Wi-Fi access on domestic flights.

Wait until you’re in the air to buy Wi-Fi access, though, and on most airlines the cost will be much higher.

How much higher? “Prices will vary,” is all several airlines will tell you. And it is rare, if ever, that purchasing an hour or a full day of Wi-Fi access is cheaper once you’re up in the air.  

But the tide on paid inflight Wi-Fi may be turning.

In 2016 JetBlue became the first domestic airline to offer its Fly-Fi streaming-quality Wi-Fi service free on all its planes.

Now Delta Air Lines is taking its first steps towards offering free Wi-Fi as well.

The Atlanta-based carrier started a two-week pilot test on May 13 that includes free Wi-Fi on around 55 domestic short, medium and long-haul flight segments a day.

“Customers are accustomed to having access to free Wi-Fi during nearly every other aspect of their journey, and Delta believes it should be free when flying, too,” said Ekrem Dimbiloglu, Delta’s Director of Onboard Product, in a statement, “Testing will be key to getting this highly complex program right – this takes a lot more creativity, investment and planning to bring to life than a simple flip of a switch.”

The test flight segments change daily; passengers learn if they’re on a free Wi-Fi flight from a pre-flight email or via a push notification from the Fly Delta app. Gate agents and flight attendants are also making announcements.

Only free ‘basic’ Wi-Fi is offered as part of the test, so passengers who need a more robust service for streaming will have to purchase the paid service. Right now it costs $16 for a North America Wi-Fi day-pass on Delta, if purchased pre-flight.

Is free in-flight Wi-Fi here to stay? And will other carriers follow?  

“It’s nice to see an airline offering a desired amenity on a complimentary basis,” said travel industry analyst and Atmosphere Research Group founder Henry Harteveldt, “But I’m uncertain whether Delta will be able to increase its market share, customer preference or revenue premium enough to warrant offering the free Wi-Fi.”  

Other industry experts expect Delta will continue down the full-time free Wi-Fi path, though, and that other airlines will have no choice but to follow.

“Delta tends to go first with these kinds of customer-friendly initiatives,” said Seth Kaplan, an aviation journalist and author of the book “Glory Lost and Found: How Delta Climbed from Despair to Dominance in the Post-9/11.” Kaplan said American Airlines and United Airlines sometimes match Delta rather than lose customers, even if they’re reluctant to do so. “But Delta’s move makes widespread free Wi-Fi much more likely than it seemed until recently,” said Kaplan.

Another reason passengers might soon enjoy widespread free inflight Wi-Fi: millennials.

“Millennials and younger generations expect free Wi-Fi access everywhere, especially when they are traveling,” said Kelly Soderlund, a travel trends expert with Hipmunk, “Much like hotels, which have been successful in leveraging consumer loyalty through free Wi-Fi, I would expect airlines to follow suit and meet that demand.”

Souvenir Sunday at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

It’s Souvenir Sunday, a day to take a look at some of the fun, inexpensive and locally-themed items you can buy at airports.

You can’t go wrong with one of these colorful souvenirs from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Flowers – fresh, wooden, plastic or ‘future’ (as in bags of bulbs) – all look appealing.

And none of these souvenirs is anywhere near expensive.

And then of course, there’s cheese, stroopwafels and chocolate.

Have you spotted a great souvenir at an airport? If you do see something that’s fun, locally-themed and low cost, please snap a photo and send it along to StuckatTheAirport.com.

If your souvenir is featured on Souvenir Sunday, we’ll send you a travel-themed gift.

Welcome back: cool(est) art at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) starting buying and commissioning art back in 1972.

The collection is now worth millions of dollars and includes work by many noted artists, including Frank Stella, Louis Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg and many local and regional artists.

One of the more fun and fantastical works is by the MacArthur genius award-winning artist Trimpin.

And it is one of my favorites.

“On: Matter, Monkeys and the King,” is a colorful, 80-foot-long, Rube Goldberg-style kinetic musical contraption that can – once again – be found in Concourse A at Sea-Tac airport.


According to the airport art tour, Trimpin’s airport installation is a metaphor for the movement of travelers throughout the airport.

The mulimedia and kinetic piece is intended to depict “what sound looks like.” Two interactive mobile “contraptions,” as Trimpin calls them, are constructed from found objects. The work is witty and charming, embodying both sound and rhythm. The colorful shapes you see on the roof modulate in different ways the sound originating from within the glass case.

Here’ a short video of Trimpin describing the piece – and the work in action.

The work is charming. It is witty. And it is very complicated. And, sadly, it stopped working a while back.

For months the piece stood still. Then parts start disappearing. Then the 80-foot long glass case was empty. And I was pretty sure it wasn’t coming back.

But it did! Trimpin returned to the airport a few weeks back and fixed it.

Thank-you!

(All photos courtesy Port of Seattle/Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Trimpin)