Uncategorized

Travel Tidbits from Icelandair, PDXairport, Uber and Lyft

Icelandair has decided to extend the run of its Buddy Hotline Service through July 8.

The free program offers passengers a chance to get travel planning tips via phone or via online messenger from a member of the Icelandair team who’s an Iceland local.

According to Icelandair, each of the “Buddies” has a different expertise, such as local cuisine, outdoor adventures, wellness and Icelandic culture. And each buddy is eager to offer insider tips to help travelers make the most of their trip.  

The Hotline is open weekdays through July 8 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. ET and weekends from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. ET.

PDX testing new ways to leave airports via Lyft and Uber

Like many airports, Portland International often has a very long line of people waiting for their assigned driver from a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft.

Now, thanks to a pilot program being tested by both Uber and Lyft, the line should move much faster.

And, soon, so should the ride-hailing pick-up line at other airports.

First, the airport has separated the pick-up locations for the ride-hailing brands (Uber, Lyft and Winz) that serve the airport.

Uber and Lyft are also using a new system for pickups.

Uber is using PIN technology, a system it has used a high-volume events and festivals, to more quickly connect UberX riders and their drivers.  

Travelers request an UberX ride, receive a one-time code, and enter the line at the pick-up location. When they reach the front of the line, they show their code to the driver and upon validation, start the trip. (Separately, riders can also use Uber products for pick-ups at PDX, including UberPOOL, Uber XL etc. )

Lyft is also offering travelers a new code-based pick-up service.

With Lyft, travelers request their ride and are given a code. When the passenger arrives at the curb, they show the code to the next available driver and off they go. 

Both companies are testing their processes at PDX this week with full implementation expected by May 20. 

The pin-systems should get riders moving more quickly. S we expect the pilot program to become a permanent program at PDX and other airports shortly.

 

Spider-Man & friends appear in United Airlines safety video

Spider-Man weaves through United Airlines’ newest safety video

Spider-Man poses with United Airlines employees who appear in the new safety demonstration video – courtesy United Airlines

F

For a story on USA TODAY, I was invited to be on set during part of the filming for United Airlines’ new safety demonstration video featuring Spider-Man – and friends.

Here’s the story, And the video.

“Spider-Man: Far From Home” won’t be in movie theaters until July 2 but, starting today, fans of the webbed wonder (and of hidden film references known as Easter eggs) will be able to see Spider-Man in action in United Airlines’ newest inflight safety demonstration video.

United Airlines, Sony and Marvel worked together to weave the Federal Aviation Administration’s required safety instructions into a fast-paced, short (4:44) film starring Spider-Man, a trio of villains, and some of Spider-Man’s friends.

“We’ve kept the worlds of Spider-Man and United safety separate, but together,” said Daniel Cuellar, Director of Global Advertising for United, “Crew members, as always, are doing the demos and giving instructions, but there’s an underlying fun Spider-Man aspect to it.”

And some cool special effects.

“That’s the benefit of partnering with Sony,” said United’s Vice President of Marketing, Mark Krolick. “We were able to make this safety video with movie theater-style production and effects. It’s not something we usually have the opportunity to do and I think our customers will appreciate the higher production value.”

And, United hopes, pay attention in a world where airlines try to out-do each other with engaging safety videos.

“There is plenty of evidence that learning is more effective when there is play and fun involved, and these videos follow a trend of gamification and entertainment of information,” said Sabrina Habib, a professor of Visual Communications at the University of South Carolina.

Spoiler alert: here’s the plot of United’s new Spider-Man-themed safety video

On the set during filming of the United Airlines new safety video. Photo Harriet Baskas

In United’s new safety video, villains cause trouble at the corner store owned by Mr. Delmar (played by Hemky Madera). Spider-Man happens to be nearby and springs into action. He chases the goons into a movie theater, to a park fountain, and down a dark alley; captures them all; and leaves them neatly wrapped up in a web with a handwritten note for the authorities that says “All Yours! Gotta Fly. Spider-Man.”  

If you pay attention, you’ll notice a framed photo of the late comic book writer and Marvel super hero creator Stan Lee in the store. That’s Spider-Man movie character Eugene “Flash” Thompson (played by Toni Revolori) helping to demonstrate safety instructions about putting electronic devices into airplane mode.

And, while you may not know who they are, some of the extras in the video are people who bid their MileagePlus miles for a chance to be part of the project.

There’s more:

Spider-Man’s alter ego, Peter Parker, has a best friend, Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) who is in-line outside a movie theater when Spider-Man streaks by chasing a goon into the theater. They race by a man walking down the sidewalk, played by none other than United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz.

“Wow, that must be some good movie,” says man-on-the street Munoz

“Yeah, I hear the best friend’s hilarious,” replies Ned.

During filming of the street scene outside the classic Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles this past January, Munoz was having fun bantering with the production crew and was patient and good-natured about the multiple takes.

Off the set, there was an upcoming earnings report and the impact the partial government shutdown was having on the airline industry to think about, but Munoz felt taking time to do this safety video cameo was important.

Besides being fun for him to do, “It brings an awareness that while United is incredibly serious about issues of safety and operational reliability,” said Munoz, “Were are the also the ‘The Friendly Skies’ and we want to be friendly and fun. I think this gives us that narrative.”

United CEO Oscar Munoz, Spider-Man and Jacob Batalon (‘Ned’). Photo_Harriet Baskas

How did United Airlines rope Spider-Man into a safety video appearance?

United is not only an official airline sponsor for the new Spider-Man movie; one of its airplanes has a cameo in the film.

In “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Peter Parker and his high school classmates go on a class trip to Europe, stopping in London, Venice, Prague and a few other places. United flew a 777-200, retrofitted with the Polaris business cabin, to London for a week of shooting.

“There are lots of different scenes of the kids going over and coming back.” said United’s global advertising director Daniel Cuellar, “Peter Parker has one very rich friend who’s flying in Polaris while everyone else is flying in economy. So there’s lots of great footage of the aircraft. And when the kids come home from Europe, they filmed in Newark Airport as well.”

Other tie-ins

United’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home” tie-in goes beyond the safety video and the aircraft cameo in the film. 

Starting in June, travelers in United’s Polaris business class will get a Spider-Man-themed amenity kit, in red or blue, which includes a Spidey-branded eye mask and socks, alongside tissues and other branded personal care items.

The airline is also inviting MileagePlus members to bid award miles for a chance to attend the “Spider-Man: Far from Home” premiere in Los Angeles on June 26 or to use award miles to attend pre-release screenings in seven of the airline’s hub cities.

A fistful of festivals to head for this summer

Festivals worth planning a summer trip around

My story for CNBC this week is a round-up of festivals and events around the country that could lure you out of town. Here is a slightly edited version of that list.

Jazz in Atlanta

Credit_Matt Alexandre

The month-long Atlanta Jazz Festival is underway, with jazz concerts taking place in neighborhood parks, MARTA stations, city museums, clubs and bistros and even at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The festival caps off Memorial Day Weekend (May 25 & 26) with a free concert at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park featuring more than a two dozen noted jazz performers

Chicago’s Festival Season

Ruthie Foster, photo Ricardo Piccirillo, courtesy Chicago Blues Festival

Chicago is chock-full of festivals each summer.

There’s Lollapalooza (August 1-4), of course, but also the Chicago Blues Festival (June 7-9), Chicago SummerDance (June 27-August 24), the Windy City Smokeout (BBQ, country music and beer; July 12-14) and the Chicago Jazz Festival (August 30- Sept 1), to name just a few.

Shakespeare in the parks


The Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park_ photo Tammy Shell

Around the country, Shakespeare and summer go together very well.

In New York City, The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park season kicks off May 21 with “Much Ado About Nothing.” Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will offer “Love’s Labor Lost” in Forest Park May 31-June 23. Chicago Shakespeare in the Park brings its free (abridged) performance of “Comedy of Errors” to city parks July 18-August 19. And the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company in Boston offers free performances of Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline” July 17 – August 4 on the Boston Common.

Celebrate the Grand Canyon Centennial

National Park Service photo

This year is the centennial of Arizona’s Grand Canyon being designated a national park. There are special events taking place all year long to help celebrate the milestone, but one major summer event will only take place after dark.

The Centennial Star Party  (June 22-29) is a night-sky celebration that takes advantage of the park’s dark skies and clear air and takes place on both the North Rim and the South Rim of the park. Amateur astronomers and park rangers set up telescopes nightly and offer constellation tours, lectures and free viewing tips to help spot planets, star clusters and far off galaxies in the sky. The week caps off with the Centennial Summerfest and Grand Archeology Fair on June 29.

Make Music – Even if You Can’t Carry a Tune

Courtesy Make Music Day

More than a thousand cities around the world will be celebrating Make Music Day on June 21 with free outdoor concerts, music lessons, jam sessions, “Mama Mia!” Sing-along trucks and other and music-making events.

“Mass Appeals” in many cities are musical performances all played on the same instrument, i.e. kazoos, ukuleles, guitars or accordions. “Sousapaloozas” will bring together hundreds of brass and wind musicians to play marches by John Philip Sousa. And in many cities, drum shops will set up two full drum sets out on the sidewalks and invite passersby to sit down for drum set duos.


 Flores Mexicanas by Alfredo Ramos Martinez – courtesy Missouri History Center

The Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis houses a large collection of Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh artifacts and on June 1 will open a new exhibit at the Missouri History Museum featuring photographs, historic footage and many rarely seen artifacts.

The exhibit, Flores Mexicanas: A Lindbergh Love Story, centers around the recently restored, 9-by-12-foot Flores Mexicanas painting by renowned Mexican artist Alfredo Ramos Martinez, which has been stored away for 50 years.

The Lindbergh – Mexico connection for this painting?

According to the museum:

In 1929 Mexican president Emilio Portes Gill gave the Lindberghs the Martinez masterpiece as a wedding gift. Mexico was significant to the Lindberghs as the place where their love story began. For the Mexican government, the gift was a chance to impress the daughter and son-in-law of the United States’ respected ambassador to Mexico, Dwight Morrow — Anne’s father.”

Straight to the Moon – 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon – NASA photo

Cities, attractions and museums everywhere are getting ready to – or have already begun to – celebrate the 50th anniversary of NASA’s July 1969 Apollo 11 mission and the first time humans walked on the Moon.

A few to set your sights on: Seattle’s Museum of Flight is hosting the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition, Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission, featuring the Columbia command module and other artifacts, through September 2.  The Smithsonian Institution’s National Air & Space Museum has five days of Apollo 50 events and exhibits planned July 16 through July 20. At the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY, the exhibit Journey to the Moon: How Glass Got Us There, opens June 29 and runs through January 30, 2010. And there are Apollo 50 events scheduled at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center, at Space Center Houston and in many-other communities around the country that have direct or casual connections to the space program.

What’s the deal with REAL ID?

My story this week for USA TODAY tries to break down what you need to know about getting that REAL ID we’ve been hearing about.

The deadline is coming up on October 1, 2020, so now it is getting real.

Here’s the story:

Take a look at your driver’s license.

Go ahead, we’ll wait while you fish it out of your wallet.

If your driver’s license doesn’t have a star in the upper corner of the card and you foresee flying on a domestic commercial flight any time after Oct 1, 2020, then your license is not Real ID compliant.

You’ll need to take action, make some decisions, or wait for your state to get its act together.

What’s Real ID?

The Real ID Act is legislation passed in 2005 (in response to the 9/11 terrorists attacks) that set new and higher minimum security standards for driver’s licenses and identification cards that will be accepted at airports, other Federally regulated facilities and nuclear power plants.

Debates and pushback from some states over the impact of Real ID have created confusion and delayed the official rollout of the Act’s enforcement, but October 1, 2020 is now considered the firm date for enforcement at commercial airports.

“The main pushback on REAL ID is that it’s too big brother,” said Jeff Price, an aviation security expert with Leading Edge Strategies, “It’s a move to make everyone in the U.S. have identification, which tends to upset those who enjoy life off the grid or don’t like any more government intrusion into their lives more than what is necessary.”

But, Price notes, nearly every state has come into compliance, “And there hasn’t been the big brother/illegal shakedown issues that some people predicted,” he said.

How do you get a REAL ID compliant license and when can you get?

Here’s where things can get tricky.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been phasing in enforcement of the REAL ID Act in an effort to give states time to become compliant with the rules and to begin issuing enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards in time for the October 1, 2020 deadline.

Most states are currently in compliance (see this map) with the REAL ID Act and are able to issue upgraded licenses and IDs.

Seven states (Oregon, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Maine), plus American Samoa, have been granted extensions with varying deadlines for meeting the rules. (Some have until August 1, 2019 while others have until October 1, 2019).

California’s status regarding REAL ID compliance is listed as “Under Review” with a much shorter deadline of May 24, 2019 for achieving compliance.

It is possible these extensions will be extended if the states show they’re making progress. But time is running short.

What this means:

If your current driver’s license or ID card is from a compliant state, TSA will accept it at airports until September 30, 2020. Starting October 1, 2020, though, licenses and IDs from these – and every state – will need to bear a star or special symbol that shows it has been upgraded to conform to the new minimum security standards.

If your current license is from one of the seven states that has been given an extension, or from California, then it is good until the date the extension expires. After that, if the state isn’t given another extension, is it possible TSA will require an additional or alternate form of ID (i.e. a passport) between the extension expiration date and September 30, 2020.

Come October 1, 2020, though, licenses from these extension states will also need to have the star or symbol that shows is has been upgraded to meet the new minimum security standards.

Getting ready for October 1, 2020

Signs about the REAL ID deadline are going up now in airports across the country.

October 1, 2020 seems far off, but it is ‘just’ a year a half away. And there’s sure to be continued confusion and delays in getting upgraded licenses and ID cards from state agencies.

For that reason, the Transportation Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, airports and travel agents are urging travelers to renew their driver’s licenses or state IDs early and to be sure to opt for the ‘enhanced’ or ‘compliant’ versions which, we should warn you, require additional paperwork and may cost more than the ‘for-driving-only’ or ‘unenhanced’ versions in some states.

Or, you can decide if you are comfortable flying domestically with your passport (if you have on; only about 40% of Americans do ) or with one of the other forms of approved identification on this list.

Got that?

United Airlines’ new livery

United Airlines is having a reveal event in Chicago today to show the world the carrier’s new livery.

But, thanks to the magic of Twitter, we’re all getting a pretty good look at the design right here.

More images will start appearing online later today, but take a look at the short videos and images United has shared already.

As United says, a key difference is that the new design ditches the gold, in favor of United blue.

What do you think of the new design?