On Emirates: blankets made from recycled plastic bottles

With shower-equipped private suites on its A380 airplanes and Bulgari amenity kits and moisturizing pajamas for first class passengers on long-haul overnight flights, Dubai-based Emirates works hard to maintain a high-class image.

And they aren’t resting on their laurels.

As part of the airline’s recent ‘comforter overhaul,’ passengers flying long-haul in the First Class cabin sleep under faux sheep-skin blankets. Those flying Business Class get soft duvets.

And now economy class passengers on long haul flights – who already receive amenity kits filled with useful items such as an eye mask, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste and socks – are able to snuggle up beneath environmentally-friendly blankets made entirely from recycled plastic bottles.

Each blanket is made from the equivalent of 28 recycled bottles that have made using the ecoTHREAD patented technology that first turns the bottles into plastic chips, then into yarn, and then into threads of polar fleece material that can be woven into soft blankets.

“I found them to be softer and warmer than the standard blankets most airlines provide,” said Carol Pucci, a travel writer who documented her recent Emirates flight from Seattle to Dubai in the economy cabin.

Like many other airlines, Emirates has sustainability program that includes collecting and recycling aluminum cans, plastic and glass bottles and paper, including magazine and newspapers, used on board.

The ecoThread blankets come to Emirates via Buzz, a company specializing in inflight products.

By adopting the ecoThread blankets for economy class, Emirates says it will reduce energy emissions and, after three years, will have diverted 88 million plastic bottles from landfills – the equivalent weight, the carrier notes, of 44 A380 aircraft.

And while Emirates now claims to have the largest sustainable blanket program in the airline industry, it is not to the first airline to carry the ecoThread blankets onboard.

That honor goes to Australian low-fare carrier Jetstar, which began using the blankets in 2015.


Dealing with high-flying fuel prices

[This article – Gas prices could hamper spring, summer travel plans – appeared earlier this week on]

Will rising gas prices detour any of  your spring and summer travel plans?

In some cities, such as San Francisco, a gallon of gas is hovering around $4. Nationally, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached $3.51 last week, up 13 percent in a month.

“It’s not like other commodities such as milk, bread or eggs,” said AAA spokesperson Troy Green. “As you drive around, you see those gas prices large and in your face at intersections every day.”

Airlines are facing fuel challenges again as well. United Continental Holdings, the world’s largest airline, on Tuesday said rising fuel costs will force it to drop some unprofitable routes and nix plans to add new ones.

That comes on top of a succession of industrywide increases in airplane ticket prices. “A traveler who paid $240 for a round-trip on the first day of the year is now paying closer to $300 — a 25 percent increase,” said Rick Seaney of

Seaney has already counted six successful domestic 2011 airfare hikes. “That is a carbon copy of 2008 to date, where we ended up with 15 hikes for the year as oil hit stratospheric highs in the summer of $145 a barrel and just as quickly crashed to $32 a barrel at Christmas.”

Rolling revisions

AAA hasn’t yet surveyed drivers about Memorial Day driving plans, but travelers respond to rising gas prices in somewhat predictable ways. “The rise in fuel costs may cause some people to alter or cancel travel plans altogether,” said Green. Others who have already made their plans are still likely to travel. “What they may do to compensate for increased fuel costs is stay in more economical hotels, dine at more economical or cheaper restaurants and spend less on gifts and other incidentals,” he added.

“All travel destinations pay close attention to gas prices,” said Carl Whitehill of the Convention and Visitors Bureau in Gettysburg, Pa., one of many towns getting ready to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. “We know fuel prices will affect travel decisions. While we still think millions of people will come to Gettysburg, they may not buy as many souvenirs or go to as many attractions as they’d hoped.”

Whitehill believes those millions of visitors will still eat in restaurants and stay in hotels. But Marti Mayne, spokesperson for the Professional Association of Innkeepers International, said country inn and B&B owners are concerned about the effect gas prices will have on guests’ travel plans and how those higher prices will affect food and energy costs at the inns.

“The B&B industry held its own during the 2008-09 gas crisis, as people stayed closer to home and ‘staycations’ became popular,” said Mayne. “The B&B industry expects this will be the trend again as most inns and B&Bs are located within a one-tank drive of a major metropolitan area.”

Still, she said some B&Bs are already rolling out offers that include complimentary gas gift cards and finishing touches are being put on a new B&B campaign that is sure to include more such offers.

For some travelers, a complimentary $20 gas card with a two-night stay won’t be a strong incentive to travel. But AAA’s Green said, “Others may look at this as a great idea and want to take advantage of it.”

And, free gas card or not, Green said that when fuel prices are up, drivers can stretch their travel dollars by remembering to properly inflate their tires, driving the speed limit, avoiding quick starts and stops and taking out any unnecessary weight in the trunk. “If you’re not going golfing, you don’t need to be driving around with those golf clubs,” said Green.

“We also suggest people shop for gas with their steering wheel,” he added. “Don’t drive 30 miles out of your way to buy cheaper gas. But you may be able to save three to five cents a gallon by driving a few extra blocks” or by consulting a website or smartphone app that tracks area gas prices.

Fly away — for more
Those planning spring or summer vacations abroad should be ready for sticker shock.

“If you’re planning on heading to Europe, know this: Fuel surcharges are over $400 round trip now with average taxes around $120,” said’s Seaney. “This means before any fare is charged, you’re looking at $520 round trip, the highest we have tracked in 8 years.

“If you are shopping for early spring travel, it would behoove you to lock in now,” Seaney added.

Seaney’s tips for finding the best deal include shopping on Tuesday afternoons, when “the maximum cheap seats hit the reservation systems at 3 p.m.,” and flying on the least expensive days, which tend to be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. He also suggests shopping for one ticket at a time, even if there are two or more people traveling together. “Airline reservations systems must have everyone in the party at the same price, even if there are a few cheaper seats.”

The bottom line? If you want to go somewhere, don’t wait: “Procrastination is not your friend when planes are full,” said Seaney. “Airlines have no reason to discount at the last minute.”


Let’s give travel thanks for ….

The economy may be tanking, but right now a tank of gas costs way less than it did last year at this time. As I prep for my Thanksgiving trek, I’m thankful for that. Travel-wise, this year, I’m also grateful for:

City bus drivers who wait a few extra seconds before pulling away from the curb so that folks running for the bus can hop on;

States that have saved lives by passing laws requiring hands-free headsets for drivers using cell phones – and for the states that will soon do so;

TSA-approved laptop cases, airports with free wireless Internet access, and the blossoming of free power charging stations in the terminals and;

The United Airlines ticket counter agents at the Montreal Airport who went way out of their way this past summer to help me get a retiring guide-dog to her adopted family in Seattle.

This past year I was also delighted to find healthy dining options at airports; truly quiet “quiet cars” on commuter trains; and plenty of smoke-free hotel rooms that, once I was all settled in, didn’t turn out to smell like smoke after all.

I’m not the only thankful traveler. Here’s a link to my Well Mannered Traveler column that’s full of travel gratitudes from others.

Free free to add your own.


Extra help for holiday travel

As summer winds down, the bad news about air travel just keeps piling up.

Airlines are announcing system-wide route cuts while hiking fees for everything from checking bags to serving snacks and water. And while fuel prices are finally dipping, airfares are not — nor are the irritations associated with flying.

(Column illustration by Kim Carney,

But while many of us may be planning on sticking close to home this Labor Day weekend and beyond – plenty of folks will be cruising the Internet looking for reasonable – or acceptable – fares for the next set of holidays. So in my Well-Mannered Traveler column posted today on, I offer up a wee bit of help and, hopefully, some fresh tips.

Feel free to add some of your own here.

Airlines cut flights; airports open new terminals

Three new terminals and at least one fresh new airport are set to open in the United States this fall. With all the news about airlines cutting flights and eliminating service, let’s hope someone will get to enjoy these new facilities.

The new 26-gate North Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) opens for business on September 17th. Before airplanes start pulling up to the gates, the airport is hosting a free open house (Sept. 6th) with music, dance, games, a scavenger hunt, and prizes that include “a plane load of gas in gas cards,” airline tickets, and a trip to Disney world. The day before that party (Sept 5) there will be a charity preview event inside the terminal to benefit five local non-profit groups. On tap: dinner, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Quartet and live entertainment.

(DTW North Terminal: courtesy DTW)

Opening elsewhere this fall:

Oct 1: JetBlue’s Terminal 5 at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK);

Oct 26: Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU); and

Nov 11, the new Indianapolis International Airport (IND), just down the road from the old one.