holiday travel

Heartwarming stories from airports & airlines

We’ve been reading some charming and heartwarming stories from airports and airlines this holiday week.

Sweet Virgin Atlantic seat-swap

First, there is a viral post on Facebook by a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant relating the story of a passenger named Jack swapping his business class seat on a flight from New York to London for the economy seat booked by 88-year-old Violet.

“Of the hundreds of flights I’ve operated, I’ve had the pleasure of looking after footballers, supermodels and some Hollywood movie stars but let me tell you about my two favourite passengers EVER!,” wrote Leah Amy, “Jack and Violet 💜 (I wish she was called Vera or Rose 🤣)”

She went on to explain that Jack’s entire family was booked in business class. But Jack decided to swap seats with Violet. He then “sat on the row of seats directly next to the economy toilets and never made a peep or asked for anything the rest of the flight. No fuss, no attention, literally did it out of the kindness of his own heart, no one asked him to.”

A great story, right?

Well, the story gets a bit better. In response to the story of Jack and Violet, Virgin Atlantic announced it will be offering complimentary upgrades to “the most seasoned person” on board all its flights through January 1, 2020.

Nice!

Birthday treat at Schiphol Airport

Here’s another heartwarming holiday-season travel story. This one from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) documenting a great birthday treat they were able to arrange for 94-year-old Granny Miep.

Canadian hospitality

And one more.

Community helps stranded passengers on Christmas Day. (courtesy Karen KayCee/Facebook)

According to the CBC, when 75 passengers got stranded in Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada on Dec. 25, the community came together in “Come from Away” style.

The town welcomed the passengerw, put together a Christmas dinner and made sure they got on their way.

The CBC notes that what happened in Deer Lake is reminiscent of what happened in 2001, when townspeople rallied to welcome thousands of passengers on planes diverted to Gander – which is also in Newfoundland and Labrador – due to the attacks on September 11.

That real-life story is the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical “Come From Away.”

In Deer Lake’s case, a plane full of WestJet passengers left Toronto for St. John’s late Christmas Eve but got diverted by bad weather.

Deer Lake isn’t a regular stop for WestJet flights, so there was little in the way support for the passengers once they were on the ground and sent over to the local Holiday Inn Express.

But this was Christmas Day. So local townspeople responded to a call-out on Facebook and rustled up a Christmas Dinner that included everything from sandwiches and cookies to turkey dinner and gravy and homemade rabbit stew.

All great stories, right?

Here’s to great travel and more heartwarming travel stories in 2020.

Airport or the North Pole?

Airports and airlines are certainly getting into the holiday spirit.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) has a giant walk-through ornament and a mailbox where anyone who has been nice this year can mail their letter to Santa. There’s also indoor snow.

Portland International Airport (PDX) is all decked out with giant snowflakes and cool-looking gifts.

And, looking ahead a bit, if you’re flying on Alaska Airlines on December 20 and own a holiday sweater, this is your chance to wear it.

Courtesy Alaska Airlines

December 20 is National Ugly Sweater Day and, for the third year in a row, Alaska Airlines will be offering flyers wearing any kind of holiday sweater (because “ugly sweater” is in the eye of the beholder) priority boarding on Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air flights.

And, ugly sweater-fan or not, keep an eye out for the Alaska Airlines “Snowplane” with a fun, winter livery.

See something festive in an airport? Or have something planned?

Let us know.

How to survive Thanksgiving travel

Flying somewhere this Thanksgiving? Here are tips to keep sane.

 

A lot of turkey wishbones – and travel records – are set to be broken during the Thanksgiving holiday this year.

AAA expects 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home over the holiday, a 4.8 percent increase over last year and the highest Thanksgiving travel volume since 2005.

For the 48.5 million Americans expected to travel by car over the holiday, the best advice is: leave early. INRIX, a global mobility analytics company, predicts that in the country’s most congested cities the Thanksgiving drive over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house could take four times longer than it might on a ‘normal’ travel day.

Traffic at airports and in the skies will break records as well.

For the holiday period, which officially begins Wednesday, November 21 and runs through Sunday, November 25, the Transportation Security Administration expects to screen 25 million people at U.S. airports, a 7 percent increase over last year.

Looking a bit broader at the 12-day Thanksgiving air travel period already underway, Airlines for America (the airline trade organization) predicts a record 30.6 million passengers will fly on U.S. airlines.

That’s up from the estimated 29 million passengers who flew during Thanksgiving last year.

Flying over Thanksgiving? Travel tips for the airport

As with driving or going anywhere over the holiday, the key advice for flying is: leave for the airport early.

That not only helps reduce stress, but builds in extra time for all those things that can go wrong, such as discovering your favorite airport parking lot is already filled up or there’s a hiccup with your airline ticket.

Transportation Security Administration officials say new screening technologies, coupled with an additional 80 passenger screening canine teams and more than 1,200 TSA officers will help with the increased volume of passengers at airport security checkpoints this year. But there may still be long, slow-moving lines at many airports.

To make sure you’re not the person holding up the line, take some extra time when prepping and packing to make sure your carry-on items are checkpoint-savvy.

*Dress for success: Transfer small items, such as wallets, phones and keys, from your pockets to your carry-on before you get to the checkpoint. Wear shoes or boots that are easy to take off and put back on.

*Download and print your boarding pass. Putting your boarding pass on your mobile phone means one less paper to keep track of. But a paper version is good back-up in case your phone loses its charge while you’re waiting on a long line, or if the checkpoint scanner can’t read the downloaded version of your pass.

*Review the rules. If you’re an infrequent traveler, find a quart-sized clear bag and take a moment to read TSA’s primer on the liquids rule.

If you’re traveling with food to eat during your journey or with a turkey or something else destined for the Thanksgiving table, you will likely be asked to take it out of your bag and put it in a separate bin for a ride through the x-ray machine.

TSA allows turkeys, turkey sandwiches, pies cakes and other baked goods through the checkpoints, but foodstuffs that are liquid, such as jellies and cranberry sauce, need to travel in checked bags.

Unsure if your food it a liquid or gel? TSA’s “What can I bring” tool, available on line and as an app, can help and you can send a question about a specific item to @AskTSA on Twitter.

Here are some other tools and tips that might help smooth out your Thanksgiving flying journey.

*Charge up your phone and other travel gadgets, including one or more back-up chargers, before you leave home. While airports have added more power ports, finding an empty one can still be a challenge. Show up with a power cord with extra plugs, and you’ll be a hero.

*Download the apps for your airline and all airports you’re traveling through and sign up for the alerts for each of your flights.

*Get numbers. Make a list of all the phone numbers you might need for your trip. The list should include not only your airline, but also the rental car or shuttle company you’ve booked with, your hotel, the person picking you up and the person who dropped you off (in case you left something behind). Put those numbers in your phone and on paper.

*Pack extras. Bring along snacks, a hefty amount of patience, and your sense of humor. Add a stash of ‘mad money’ to your wallet. That way, if something goes wrong despite all your planning and preparation you’ll be prepared to buy yourself or your family a stress-busting treat.

 

Enjoy the holiday!

 

Flying over the Labor Day holiday? You won’t be alone.

Flying over the Labor Day holiday? You won’t be alone.

Holiday travelers at airport

If you’re (finally) getting out of town and flying somewhere over the Labor Day holiday, you’ll find busy airports and full airplanes.

Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group for most U.S. airlines, expects 16.5 million passengers to fly worldwide on U.S. carriers over the week-long Labor Day travel period.

That’s a 3.5 percent increase from the 16 million passengers estimated to have flown over the same holiday period last year.

Friday, Aug. 31 is expected to be the busiest travel day of the week, with an estimated 2.76 million passengers flying onboard U.S. airlines worldwide.

On the next busiest days, Thursday, Aug. 30 and Monday, Sept. 3, there will be an expected 2.6 and 2.58 million passengers travel, respectively.

The two lightest days, no surpises, are expected to be Saturday, Sept. 1 and Sunday, Sept. 2. Those days are also historically among the lightest travel days of the year.

If the summer has slipped away from you, travel-wise, here are some fresh routes airlines are launching to spark some planning. (I put this list together for my monthly route round-up on Global Traveler).

American Airlines and its joint business partner Japan Airlines (JAL) will operate a non-stop flight between Narita International Airport and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas from January 4 to 14, 2019 to coincide with the CES 2019, the giant consumer electronics show. More details on that temporary service here.

British Airways will begin flying between Pittsburgh International Airport and London Heathrow Airport on April 2, 2019. The flight will be the only nonstop service between the two cities and will operate four days a week. More details here.

Cathay Pacific will launch nonstop flights between Seattle and Hong Kong on March 31, 2019. The flights we be on an Airbus A350-900 aircraft and fly from Seattle to Hong Kong each Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Flights from Hong Kong to Seattle will operate Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. More details here.

 Delta Air Lines announced daily nonstop service between Detroit Metropolitan Airport and Norman Mineta San Jose beginning November 15, providing the only nonstop service between these two cities. The flight will operate on Delta’s 737-800 aircraft.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines plans to begin flying between Boston Logan Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport March 31, 2019. The new flights will be on an Airbus A330-300 and begin with three times a week service. A fourth weekly flight will be added on July 1. KLM’s joint-venture partner, Delta, currently offers two daily flights between BOS and AMS. More details here.

Korean Air debuts nonstop service between Boston and Seoul on April 12, 2019 on the airline’s 787-9 Dreamliner. Flights will operate five days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. More details here.

United Airlines will add seasonal daily flight between Washington Dulles International Airport and Miami International Airport from December 19, 2018 to March 30, 2019. During the peak holiday travel period of December 24 to January 6, 2019, the carrier will offer twice daily service between these two cities. More details here.

Where are you headed this holiday?