Hawaiian Airlines has inked a deal with Starlink, the SpaceX satellite network, to provide complimentary high-speed internet onboard flights between the islands and the continental U.S, Asia, and Oceania as early as next year.
The airline plans to equip select Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft, as well as an incoming fleet of Boeing 787-9s, with Starlink’s satellite internet connectivity service.
“We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait,” said Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram, in a statement.
Free Coloring Books at O’Hare and Midway Airport
If you are passing through Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airport anytime soon, be sure to stop by an info desk to ask for one of the free activity and coloring books. The books are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded as well.
Free stuff and prizes when you explore Indiana
The deals team at Stuck at The Airport loves creative travel campaigns, free stuff, and prizes.
Admission is free to all Indiana State Parks on May 1. That also happens to be the Hoosier State’s free fishing day as well.
Throughout the week, anyone who checks in using the Indiana State Nature Passport becomes eligible for a grand prize that includes a 2022 State Parks Pass, a $50 gift card for camping, and a subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine.
Indiana also has a Culinary Trails Passport and throughout May, anyone who checks in on the I Scream for Ice Cream Trail is eligible to win a gift card from one of the trail stops, courtesy of Indiana Foodways Alliance.
Each video, hosted by a leading museum director, shares insights and commentary on a piece they have selected from their collection. Here’s the latest:
Sky Squad Lands at BWI Airport
SkySquad is a travel tech company that arranges for a ‘helping hand’ at airports. The service is designed to offer assistance to families, seniors, pet owners, or anyone who needs some help navigating the travel experience, and now travelers at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) can book it.
With fees starting at $49, the concierge-style service provides assistants who can greet customers at their car door to help them unload luggage and then guide them through the check-in and checkpoint process and out to the gate.
Sound like something you or someone you know could use? SkySquad is also available at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG). Next up: Ft Lauderdale.
New PDX Coloring Book
There’s a lot of construction going on at Portland International Airport (PDX) right now, which can add an extra layer of stress to anyone’s journey.
To make getting through PDX easier and more fun – especially for families with kids – PDX has put together a new coloring book with whimsical characters and some fun facts about the airport.
The text is in English and Spanish, and each booklet has images that match larger counterparts on the walls and on the giant post-it notes throughout the terminal.
We’re making this an early nomination for “Airport Amenity of the Week.”
A growing wave of relaxed restrictions, along with an increasing number of vaccinated Americans, is leading to a surge in “vaxications” and other trips, after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Mothballed restaurants, hotels and attractions, canceled cruise seasons, and record low airline passenger traffic are making way for a brisk uptick in travel plans. Around half of Americans set to take a trip in the next three months, according to an analysis from the U.S. Travel Association.
“People have an 18-month supply of events, visits and vacations to catch up on,” said Michael McCall, professor of hospitality business at Michigan State University. “There is a substantial pent-up desire to travel. Families have not hugged or spent time together.”
After more than a year of closure, Disneyland looks set to open in April, along with many other theme parks. Dollywood theme park, for example, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, opened for the season last weekend, just in time for spring break, as is its tradition.
Live indoor music has already returned to New Orleans, although dancing inside clubs remains prohibited.
Business is brisk right now at Biloxi Shrimping Trip in Biloxi, Mississippi, which got hit hard during the pandemic. In March 2020, “we lost all our group travel clients and walk-up business for the year in just a few days,” said owner and operator Mike Moore, “But the start of 2021 has been surprisingly busy, even compared to last year. Our vessel has been operating steadily with walk-ups and the phone is starting to ring for groups visiting in the fall and also for spring of 2022.”
Urban areas are seeing visitors return, too.
“Since the beginning of February 2021, we have begun to see more travelers from outside our region,” said Rudd Schupp, chef concierge at tourist information center Visit Seattle.
While great airfare deals have lured some to Seattle from California, Utah, Montana and Texas, many visitors from the neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho “just wanted to get in the car and drive somewhere,” Rudd said.
Road trips were popular last summer, but even more people could be hitting the road this summer. Travelers in a recent TripIt survey said they will be ready to head out on a road trip as early as June in a personal car (83 percent) or in a rented car or RV (60 percent), with more than 60 percent planning to drive for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day trips.
Many of those trips will include hotels stays, but many road trippers will stay in their RVs and in campgrounds.
Jon Gray, CEO of RVShare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, said bookings for spring break are already up by 114 percent compared to last year.
Private and public campgrounds are also seeing an uptick in reservations, with some opening earlier than usual this year. Advance reservations were already up by 150 percent as early as January at many campsites affiliated with the Jellystone Park franchise network, which has nearly 80 family campgrounds across the U.S. and Canada. Campspot, a campground reservation software system, said guests are booking longer and more frequent trips, with a nearly 300 percent increase in guests booking multiple trips.
Even the hard-hit cruise industry is hoping to salvage some of its 2021 season. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its no-sail order in October, the restrictions in the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order that replaced it have led most major cruise lines to voluntarily extend their sailing suspensions.
Some cruise lines have announced that when cruises return, all crew and passengers will be required to have proof of negative Covid-19 tests and vaccinations. In the meantime, “we continue to see significant interest among cruisers in returning to sea,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.
Based on a recent survey of our readers, 42 percent shared that they are currently looking to book a future cruise — and a majority of those are looking to sail within the next 12 months. So, though they are not yet able to sail, they’re eager to do so when the time is right,” McDaniel said.
Air travel has already picked up significantly, with the Transportation Security Administration screening the largest number of passengers last week since the pandemic hit. While the numbers are still way down compared to pre-pandemic times, traffic is rising enough to give airlines confidence to bring back many paused routes and introduce new services: Hawaiian Airlines just launched a new nonstop service from Orlando, Florida, to Honolulu; JetBlue Airways will soon begin flying between Hartford, Connecticut, and Miami; and American Airlines announced 10 new, returning and seasonal routes out of Austin, Texas.
“Airlines are seeing more people shopping for flights on their websites and they are getting more queries through travel agencies. They are seeing booking volumes build,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group. “Because international travel restrictions still exist between the U.S. and many countries, most of the demand is domestic or to the few countries where Americans are allowed to visit, such as Mexico and Costa Rica. But there is hope on the horizon.”
Passengers whose flights or travel plans were canceled during the pandemic are also sitting on billions of dollars of travel vouchers, many of which expire soon. “Airlines want you to use that credit, so this may be a great summer for people to get out on the road and into the skies,” Harteveldt said.
Travel experts say anyone wishing to take a trip should be exercising caution, especially in light of the CDC’s recommendation that travel be avoided where possible, even for passengers who are vaccinated.
“If you’re considering travel sometime this year, it’s more important than ever to do your due diligence ahead of any trip to ensure it is safe and enjoyable,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel.
[This is a slightly different version of the story we prepared for NBC News]
As the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations is ramping up, so is consumer confidence — and with it, a surge in travel bookings.
“Many travelers are feeling optimistic that they will be able to vacation abroad this year. Many people are already actively planning their next big trip; even for trips more than four months out,” said Shibani Walia, senior research analyst at Tripadvisor.
With a comprehensive vaccine schedule and pent-up demand for leaving home, vacation planning and bookings are on the rise for late 2021, 2022, and beyond.
Spirit Airlines announced Thursday it would start training new pilots and flight attendants as of next month, in preparation for a spike in leisure travel.
“We just got our first shot. So maybe we could plan a trip this summer or later this year,” says Vicky Stein of New York. “I’d love to visit my son in Vancouver, B.C. But that depends on the regulations in Canada. At this point, I’d be happy to go to Vermont.”
A recent Tripadvisor survey found that 80 percent of U.S. consumers planned to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip in 2021. Just over one-third of respondents planning at least three domestic trips this year. Popular destinations such as Orlando are already seeing a hopeful booking rebound.
“The region expects 2021 spring break travel to mirror the Christmas and New Year holidays, when occupancy reached 50 percent,” said Daryl Cronk, senior director of market research for Visit Orlando. “This would be a significant improvement over last year’s 12 percent, one of the lowest points of the year.”
Tripadvisor’s survey also found a strong interest in international travel planning. Nearly half (47%) of all respondents said they are planning to travel internationally in 2021.
Already, the majority of hotel clicks for trips taking place from May onwards are to international destinations, Tripadvisor noted. “This is an early signal that travelers are feeling increasingly confident they will be able to travel abroad in 2021, at least in the back half of the year.”
Italy, France, Japan, Australia, and Greece are at the top of most travelers’ lists, said Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso travel network, citing customer planning.
Cruises may make a comeback
Travelers are also eyeing cruises, a good sign for the many cruise lines that had to abandon entire sailing seasons.
“We’re seeing growing confidence from cruisers as vaccines begin to be distributed,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief at Cruise Critic. “Both because they see it as a step in the right direction for the return of travel, and because they’ll feel most comfortable sailing knowing that they and their fellow passengers have been vaccinated.”
Many cruisers are making their bookings further out.
“Our 136-day 2021-2022 Viking World Cruise sold out more than a year in advance,” says Richard Marnell, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Viking. “And we have had such strong demand for our new Mississippi River cruises that we opened additional dates for sale in 2023 sooner than expected.”
Rich and Suzi McClear of Sitka, Alaska, whose 2020 Holland America Line world cruise was cut short due to the pandemic, are anxious to go back to sea. “We’re rebooked for a 2022 world cruise. We’re also booked for the 2023 world cruise, which we view as an insurance policy in case the 2022 cruise does not go,” they said in an email.
Should you book a trip too?
Most travel companies now have flexible and more generous booking and cancellation policies, and prices are historically low. So, it can be a good time to book future trips.
Airfares, for example, are 20 percent lower compared to last year, said Adit Damodaran, economist for travel app Hopper. “Domestic airfare prices are expected to rise in mid-to-late March and gradually return to 2019 levels over the course of the year. And it is not too early to book for 2022, especially if you’re booking with trip protection or flexible booking options.
(This is an ever so slightly different version of my story that posted on NBC News).
Would a “clean city” pledge get you to plan a trip?
We’re into what by all rights should be a busy summer travel season. But many states are hitting the breaks on reopening plans due to record spikes in COVID-19 cases.
Yet in many parts of the country, beaches and bars are filling up, hotel occupancy rates are rising and attractions such as zoos, aquariums and museums are welcoming back visitors.
Disney World Resort’s phased opening plans in Florida are on track, even though Disneyland’s plans in California are delayed.
The push to reopen is being fueled in part by businesses starving for customers and cash flow. But also by a cooped up public cautiously optimistic about making travel plans and hoping for a slowdown in the spread of COVID-19.
Communities that for months have been asking guests to stay away are now scrambling for ways to get business and leisure travelers to come back.
Campaigns to get tourists back
Now, branded campaigns declaring a destination clean, safe, and sanitized are trending.
“Tourism has taken a serious blow and destinations are doing whatever they can to restore consumer confidence,” says Misty Belles, a managing director with the Virtuoso travel agency network. “We know that concerns over contracting the virus are one of the key barriers to getting people comfortable with traveling again, so cities across the country are touting their enhanced cleaning protocols to quell those fears,” she adds.
In Ohio, window decals and website badges in Columbus are a sign that businesses have signed the “Live Forward” pledge to make the health and safety of patrons a priority.
“To meet this obligation, we’ve established additional protection measures and trained our team in enhanced best practices for safety and sanitation,” says David Miller, President and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants.
Cleveland’s Clean Committed campaign provides participating businesses with safety kits, guidelines, and materials to help make sure the city is ready for the return of visitors.
In Rochester, Minnesota (home of the Mayo Clinic), businesses in the Rochester Ready program are also implementing protocols in physical distancing, masking, cleaning, sanitizing and building ventilation.
Nashville’s Good to Go program is one of many with searchable databases of businesses that have vowed to adhere to coronavirus guidelines.
The list of vacation spots with clean campaigns is long and getting longer.
It is not only because cities are taking the health concerns of citizens and visitors seriously. Lodging industry consultant Bjorn Hanson says it also because “no destination manager or government entity wants to be viewed as doing less than others to attract and protect travelers.”
Will travelers trust a city’s seal of cleanliness?
Megan Tenney, whose family of six has been traveling full time since September 2018, now monitors COVID requirements and the health news in places the family is considering visiting.
“We’re focusing on places that seem to be doing better or were less affected to begin with,” said Tenney, “And I think a ‘clean campaign’ would give us the confidence to travel to a location.”
But while Brian DeRoy of Charleston, South Carolina feels that “whoever can market best in the game of being clean is going to have an advantage,” Seattle-based frequent traveler Rob Grabarek would not feel reassured by a city’s program alone.
“I’d have to examine the extent of a local government’s policies to see if I felt there were sufficient,” said Grabarek, “And while I applaud the idea of identifying businesses that are in compliance, I wouldn’t feel safe unless the entire community were adhering to the same stringent practices.”
Given that there is no single organization or government entity to oversee and assure that all these cleaning campaigns are effective, the emphasis on cleanliness as a destination marketing tool may not last long.
“Our travel advisors tell us there are really two traveler mindsets right now,” said Virtuoso’s Belles, “Those who want to pull back the curtain and know how everything they potentially come in contact with is being sterilized and those who just want to trust that it’s happening. Too much focus on cleanliness may actually backfire on those looking for the escapism in their vacation.”
What do you think? Would a city’s pledge of cleanliness be reassuring enough to get you to plan a trip?