Tag Archives: Narita

Dreamliner in flight

An inside look at Boeing’s new lightweight, long-range jumbo jet, from a passenger’s perspective. Here’s what you have to look forward to in the very near future.

Just after lunchtime, Japan Air Lines Line Flight 065 took off from San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, bound for Narita International Airport in Tokyo, the first direct non-stop flight between San Diego and Asia.

It’s also the first flight from San Diego aboard Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner, whose groundbreaking use of composites in place of aluminum in its structure make it ultra-light and thus give it ultra-long range.

This bird has been a long time coming. For a variety of reasons, its first deliveries from Boeing were a whopping three years behind schedule. We’ve charted much of the 787′s teething pains here on IBIT, and along with the rest of the international travel world, eagerly awaited its arrival.

Now, it’s starting to make its appearance at the world’s airports, including SAN.

If, like most of the world, you’ve yet to have a chance to experience a 787 yourself, here’s a link to one writer’s experience aboard a Dreamliner — and as you’ll see, there’s plenty aboard this aircraft that’s new.

Meanwhile, JAL’s inaugural flight from San Diego is making its way north up the California coast toward Alaska, following the polar arc toward Japan. If you want to track the flight of JL065 as it makes its way toward Japan, you can do that at the FlightAware site here.

At some point along the way, the passengers will be treated to lunch and dinner — which, for the first time in JAL history, will include an offering of Kentucky Fried Chicken, as I mentioned in yesterday’s IBIT Travel Digest.

If all goes as planned, that probably will be the roughest part of their flight.

ALSO CHECK OUT:
A Dreamliner come true for San Diego
Dreamliner in flight
AFRICA — The air game changes
Dreamliner sighting
Battle of the bins

the IBIT Travel Digest 12.2.12

The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Catalina sunset
Sunset off Catalina Island | ©IBIT/G. Gross

ALL ABOARD — WORLDWIDE
If you love rail travel — or just loathe air travel — The Guardian newspaper in London has one of the best resources for planning a fantastic rail vacation.

It’s created its own Web page dedicated to great rail journeys around the world.

Stories about terrific train trips on almost every continent, planning advice, suggestions from readers, photo galleries, it’s all there.

One such trip that’s definitely on my list is aboard The Canadian, a train that travels across virtually the breadth of Canada, from Toronto in the east to Vancouver on the Pacific coast.

It’s not a high-speed train, but given the beauty of the land, including the Rocky Mountains, you won’t want to go that fast, anyway.

Even if you don’t actually use it to plan a train trip, you’ll probably learn some interesting things from it.

For example, thanks to the English Channel tunnel, it’s now possible to travel not merely from London to Moscow, but from London all the way across Europe, Russia and Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean — crossing ten time zones and nearly 8,000 miles — without ever stepping onto an airplane.

Not that you’d actually want to, but you could.

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STRETCHING OUT ON AMERICAN
There’s a truism in the fashion world that says if you wait long enough, everything comes back in style. That may be the case among the airlines, as well.

About a decade ago, I joined my first airline mileage program. The airline of choice was American. The reason? Back then, American touting the fact that it was removing seats from its aircraft to create more legroom between rows. When you stand 6’3,” you pay attention to things like that.

Sure enough, a few years later, the airline decided it needed the money, so it put all those seats back into all those planes. Bummer.

Fast-forward to November 2012. An email from American Airlines pops up in my inbox:

“Good things do come to those who wait.

Earlier this year, we mentioned that extra legroom in the Main Cabin was coming. We’re happy to tell you that Main Cabin Extra seats have arrived. You’ll enjoy the following benefits when you purchase a Main Cabin Extra seat:

• Extra space to stretch out
• Group 1 boarding to settle in early
• Seats near the front of the plane so you can get on and off the plane faster”

Legroom is back. Cue the Kool and the Gang music. “Ce-le-brate good times, come on!”

Well, not entirely. There are a couple of differences this time around.

A decade ago, the extra legroom was spread through the entire cabin. This time, it’s being limited to the Main Cabin Extra section at the front of a selected group of new jets.

The other difference is one you’ve probably come to expect by now. If you want a seat in Main Cabin Extra, and you don’t have elite status with American, you’ll have to pay for it, anywhere from $8 to $118 per flight, according to American’s Web site.

On the other hand, you won’t be paying hundreds or thousands of dollars extra for a First or Business Class seat.

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AFRICAN VISA
If I had a dollar for every unsolicited credit card application that turned up in my mailbox in the last five years (and went straight to the shredder), I could probably fly someplace nice… in Business Class. But here’s one Visa card I wouldn’t mind having.

It’s called the KQ Msafiri Visa credit card. It’s result of a joint venture between Barclay’s Bank of Kenya and Kenya Airways.

Not only do your purchases with the card earn miles toward free Kenya Airways flights, but you also get priority check-in and boarding, and up to $56,500 in travel insurance, free.

Cool. But what I’d really love to see would be for outfits like Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines or Arik Air to partner up with some American banks — preferably some black-owned American banks — to create a credit card whose purchases would build miles toward travel to Africa.

That’s one credit card application I wouldn’t shred.

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AND FINALLY…
This last item sounds like a punchline, or maybe something from the satirical news Web site, The Onion…but it’s neither.

Starting this weekend on selected international flights, Japan Air Lines will be serving its passengers in-flight meals featuring…Kentucky Fried Chicken.

That’s right, JAL is hooking up with KFC. According to the JAL press release, it’s to be called “Air Kentucky.”

Greasy fried chicken at 35,000 feet? Neither I nor my bowels know quite what to make of this. Believe it or not, however, it does make a certain amount of sense, although perhaps not for the reason you’d expect.

It would be logical to presume that JAL is doing this to placate those Western passengers whose faces turn unnatural colors at the very thought of eating sushi. But you would be mistaken.

According to the press release, “KFC is widely popular in Japan, particularly during the Christmas season.” And according to CNN, it ties in with a JAL gimmick of partnering with restaurtant chains popular in Japan, such as “MOS Burgers, Yoshinoya beef bowls and Edosei pork buns.”

And there you have it. Pass me the sushi, please.

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And now, here’s The Digest:

AIR
from Smarter Travel
A holiday gift from your friends at ST, the ten airlines that give you the best legroom in Coach — or as I like to call it, Sardine Class. SLIDESHOW

from Travel Weekly
Flying to the Caribbean from anywhere in the world? No problem, mon. Flying among the Caribbean islands on regional airlines? Big problem, mon.

from Travel Weekly
Delta to begin flying between Seattle and Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport, which is closer to the city than its other airport, Narita. But Seattle’s gain will be Detroit’s loss.

LAND
from Smarter Travel
The ST crew highlights the cold-and-flu season by pointing out the 10 Germiest Places You Encounter While Traveling. Their title, not mine. Never mind that, just take their advice and stay healthy going into the New Year. SLIDESHOW

from CNN
First, the bad news. Hotels are now going the way of the airlines and hitting their guests with hidden “resort fees.” The good news? The feds have taken notice.

from Smarter Travel
Five off-season travel destinations that are really cool, and not just because it’s winter. SLIDESHOW

from Travel Weekly
Ridership isn’t the only thing growing at Amtrak. Look for a larger number of Amtrak Vacations packages in 2013.

SEA
from Travel Weekly
Houston has had a gleaming new cruise ship terminal since 2009, but no cruise ships ever made port calls there. Starting next November, that will change.

from Travel Weekly
More life preservers, better tie-downs for heavy equipment aboard ship and standardized procedures for bridge officers are among the safety changes being proposed within the cruise ship industry as a result of the Costa Concordia disaster.

from CNN
How do you “undiscover” an island?

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AFRICA
from Travel Weekly
British travelers recently declared Cape Town, South Africa to be their favorite city in the world — and it looks as if Europe’s international airlines are getting the message.

from the South African Government News Agency via allAfrica.com
A cultural, historical and anti-poverty industrial center dedicated to the memory of anti-apartheid martyr Steve Biko opens in South Africa. The Steve Biko Heritage Centre is expected to become a major tourist attraction.

from The Star (Kenya) va allAfrica.com
With foreign tourism starting to dry up, mainly over security fears as Kenyan forces tangle with Al Qaeda-aligned terrorists from neighboring Somalia, the government tries to boost domestic tourism to compensate.

AMERICAS
from CNN
The ravages of Superstorm Sandy are not preventing holiday visitors from pouring into New York City.

from CNN
Take a look at Detroit through the eyes of its mayor, former NBA superstar Dave Bing.

from SFGate.com
Up in the Napa Valley, you can find restaurants that design menus around the finest local wines. Not down in Monterey. This beautiful seaside-scenic town, a two-hour drive south from San Francisco, has gone nuts over local craft beers — so much so that several local restos now feature entire dinners built around local brews.

from the Los Angeles Times
Memories of the California gold rush live on in Yreka.

ASIA/PACIFIC
from China Daily
Have you ever seen any of those ancient Chinese paintings depicting incredibly beautiful landscapes, towering bullet-shaped limestone mountains that couldn’t possibly be real? Well, they’re real, all right, and Guilin is the place that inspired a lot of those paintings.

Travel Weekly
With cruise sales leveling off here and sailing over their own “fiscal cliff” in Europe, the cruise lines are turning to Asia to pick up the slack. Singapore has already built a new ocean terminal large enough to dock the world’s biggest liners, and more are coming.

from CNNgo
Paris? New York? San Francisco? Madrid? You can all sit down. The Michelin Guide to the world’s great restaurants has crowned the gourmet capital of the world — and it’s Tokyo…still.

from Travel Weekly
Canada’s Four Seasons becomes the latest luxury hotel chain to plant its flag in China with a new 313-room luxury tower in Beijing.

EUROPE
from The New Yorker
Paris, that gastronomic capital of haute cuisine, is going ga-ga over its newest craze. Brace yourself: It’s American hamburgers. We’re not talking Mickey D’s, either.

from Cisco
The next time you find yourself in one of those classic London cabs, whip out your smartphone or your iPad and see if its wifi is working. Cyberspace is coming to the hackney carriage.

from Reuters
It’s no big deal anymore to find a Muslim mosque in Paris. A gay-friendly Muslim mosque in Paris? That’s a very big deal.

Edited by P.A.Rice

the IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 11.4.12

The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Liverpool | ©IBIT/G. Gross

DANCING WITH HURRICANES
For most of the last week, travelers have been coping with the chaos created by Hurricane Sandy. Clem Bason, president of the Hotwire Group, offered some really helpful tips for travelers to get through it.

But it doesn’t require a “storm of the century” to unleash havoc on the US aviation grid. All it takes is a strong storm lasting a day or more that hammers an airlines’ hub airport city like Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta or New York.

If nothing else, Sandy’s swamping of East Coast airports may get travelers thinking about how to deal with such crises in the future, and that’s a good thing. Because the realities of climate change mean we probably haven’t seen our last superstorm around here.

Bason recommends keeping your airline’s phone number in your smartphone. In addition to that, make sure you have one or more good travel apps in your phone that give you fast access to airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, whatever you need to get through the crisis.

But really, the best thing you can do for yourself during a travel emergency is to have a previously established relationship with a travel agent and keep that person on speed dial. A good, experienced travel agent not only can find alternative flights and lodging for you, but can book them…and probably a lot faster than you can.

Just a little something to think about, especially if you travel a lot — and before one of Sandy’s meteorological siblings shows up.

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“F” IS FOR FEES
As in airline add-on fees, those extra charges for checking your bags and even the “privilege” of sitting in an exit-row seat. The airlines drained an extra $22 bilion out of your collective pockets last year on fees alone.

We all know and loathe them, but we don’t know all of them.

Until now.

The crew at SmarterTravel, one of the best travel Web sites going, has produced a guide listing every single add-on fee charged by every domestic airline in the United States. Fourteen different fees — and their varying amounts — from 14 different US airlines.

It’s a PDF entitled “Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees.” To download it, click here.

Bookmark that link on your computer. Keep it on your smartphone. Print it out. If you fly a lot, this is one list you definitely want to keep handy.

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JAL SELLING COMFORT
For many years now, Japan Air Lines, that nation’s original national flag carrier, has been flying in the jetwash of rival All Nippon Airways. It looks now as if JAL is trying to take the fight to ANA with a promise of more comfort in the sky.

It’s giving their extended-range Boeing 777s a major interior makeover. When done, its cabins will be divided into four classes — Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First.

The latter two classes will be lie-flat seats in their own self-contained shells, but JAL is promising that all the seats will be more comfortable, even in sardine class.

They’re calling these reconfigured 777s “Sky Suites,” and the first of them will go into service next Janunary between Tokyo Narita and London Heathrow. Eventually, however, they will be coming to America.

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ALL ABOARD FOR BEER
You may have heard of the Napa Valley Wine Train up in the Northern California wine country. It’s a great experience, and IBIT will have more on that in a future blog post.

Meanwhile, have you heard about the Beer Train in San Diego? It may sound like the punchline to a bad joke, but it’s anything but.

Unlike the Napa Valley Wine Train, the Beer Train doesn’t have its own rolling stock. Instead, it turns a Coaster commuter train into a rolling pub. Pub grub and short walks are part of the package.

Sounds like a sweet ride, does it not?

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CARIBBEAN SPRUCE-UP
Travel Weekly reports that both Barbados and Martinique have plans in the works for new cruise terminals capable of handling the largest cruise ships out there. Which means that, in a year or so from now, passengers will be able to step off the ship directly onto the dock and head straight into town.

Caribbean ports need to do this, for the same reason that the world’s major airports have to build larger terminals to accommodate the Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet.

Some struggle to handle the larger new super-cruisers. Others can’t dock cruise ships at all. They have to use small, cramped tenders to ferry cruise ship passengers to and from shore, a time-consuming and somewhat risky process disliked equally by the ports, the cruise lines and their passengers.

Meanwhile, Caribbean cruise ships have been growing almost exponentially in size since the 1990s. Royal Caribbean International and Carnival, the two largest lines going head-to-head for the Caribbean cruise market are both building seagoing behemoths that would make the Titanic look like the SS Minnow.

It’s hardly a coincidence, then, that one of the principal partners in the new Barbados cruise terminal is Royal Caribbean. One look at their Oasis of the Seas will explain everything.

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AND FINALLY—
Travel media just love making lists — best this, cheapest that, coolest whatever. If you look long enough, you’ll probably find someone making a list of the best travel lists.

But the prize for the most counter-intuitive travel list goes to Budget Travel. Its “winning” entry: the world’s 25 must-see tourist traps.

Normally, when travel writers say anything about tourist traps, it’s to advise you — usually with great disdain — to avoid them. This slideshow does just the opposite. It lists the top 25 destinations that invariably are crawling with tourists, but worth a visit, anyway.

To look at it another way: These places are all teeming with visitors for a reason.

So if a certain sight or destination really piques your interest, don’t automatically let the travelerati put you off from it.

And now, here’s the Digest:

AIR
from SmarterTravel
from CNN Travel
Window or aisle: What does your choice of airplane seat say about you?

from SmarterTravel
Eight airline perks that are — are you sitting down? — still free. SLIDESHOW

from the Los Angeles Times
First, airlines started tapping into celebrity chefs. Now, American Airlines will let passengers in First and Business Class reserve their choice of in-flight meals. The biggest shock? There’s no fee attached.

from Travel Weekly
JetBlue plans to offer satellite-based wifi beginning early in 2013, which it says will be better than the ground-based airborne wifi being offered by their competitors. It also plans to offer at least a basic version of it…wait for it…at no charge.

from Travel Weekly
Lufthansa launches a new low-fare carrier in Europe, Germanwings.

LAND
from SmarterTravel via USA Today
Five tips to make the most of that carry-on bag.

from Budget Travel
When it comes to unexpected travel costs that can ambush your wallet, we all know about the airlines and their hated baggage fees. But there are at least a half-dozen more that BT wants you to know about.

from Reuters
The streetcar, thought to be obsolete a half-century ago, is making a comeback in New Orleans. One more reason to visit the Crescent City.

from Associated Press via Yahoo
From bike-sharing programs to building bicycle “superhighways, European cities are embracing cycling like never before.

SEA
from Travel Weekly
Norwegian Cruise Line doing away with its discounts for children under age 2. A money-making idea, or a way to force parents to leave their babies at home with grandma?

from Travel Weekly
The Love Boat in unfamiliar waters. Princess Cruise Line’s Pacific Princess will offer a 10-day Caribbean cruise next January.

from Travel Weekly
New cruise industry safety rules now require cruise ship crewmembers to do lifeboat drills that involve actually putting the boats in the water and maneuvering them while being filled to capacity. If you’re guessing this is a consequence of the Costa Concordia disaster, you’re right.

AFRICA
from The Guardian (London UK)
A few days in the bush in Zimbabwe.

from Le Monde (France)
African migrants are increasingly abandoning dreams of reaching Europe or America. These days, the “promised land” is increasingly becoming South Africa. But while the dream destination may be different, the hardships and sorrows of the journey are the same.

from Monkeys and Mountains
Shark diving in South Africa — with camera and without a cage.

from Capetown Festival of Beer
When the world thinks of alcoholic beverages and South Africa, it automatically and for good reason thinks of South African wines. These guys would like to change that.

AMERICAS
from the New York Times
Like some sort of post-apocalyptic epiphany on wheels, New Yorkers living in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are rediscovering their bikes…and liking them.

from Travel Weekly
Government bureaucracy plus consumer confusion is making a muddle of new rules governing legal U.S. travel to Cuba.

from Travel Weekly
The Imperial Palace hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip is undergoing both a year-long makeover and a name change. When it’s all done, some time around the end of 2013, it will be known as The Quad.

from the Associated Press via SFGate
The San Ysidro border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana is often touted as the world’s busiest world crossing, and often cursed as the world’s most congested. It’s now getting a makeover intended to streamline the traffic flow going south. Northbound travelers…*shrug.*

ASIA/PACIFIC
from CNNgo
Vietnam puts its own spin on fast-food dining. It usually involves two motorized wheels and some seriously fresh and tasty eats.

from Travel Weekly
What it’s like to tour quake-shattered Christchurch, New Zealand. Just one example of “dark tourism.”

from Travel Weekly
Get ready to rock out in in the Middle Kingdom. Hard Rock International is bringing its rock ‘n’ roll-themed hotels to China starting in 2015, including one on the island of Hainan.

from Travel Weekly
China’s on-again, off-again issuance of permits for foreign tourists to visit Tibet is off again.

EUROPE
from The Guardian (London UK)
Missed Halloween last week? No worries. You can always catch up at the Witches Night festival next spring in Prague. Parades, witch burnings (in effigy only, mind you) and some of the world’s best beer.

from Travel Weekly
The British travel company Trafalgar is planning a 13-day tour of European battlefields from both world wars. Included is a visit to the Belgian cemetery that inspired the famous World War 1 poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

from Typically Spanish
Spain has long been a traditional warm-weather refuge for British tourists. These days, they’ve increasingly got company, from an even chillier Mother Russia.

from the BBC
Paris for lovers…of chocolate.

Edited by P.A.Rice

A Dreamliner come true for San Diego

JAL 787 old livery 3
AWA1994
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner Surpasses 500 Customer Orders in under Three Years
http://www.dreamstime.com/-image18766911
JAL 787 new livery
http://www.dreamstime.com/-image12461199
First 787 Flight Test Aerial Photos FA251247K64839-03

Aircraft images courtesy of Boeing. Tokyo images from Dreamstime.com.

Boeing’s new state-of-the-art 787 is making it possible for Japan Air Lines to launch non-stop flights this year from San Diego to Tokyo.

For the first time in its history, San Diego will have a direct, regularly scheduled air link to the other side of the Pacific Ocean.

According to published media reports, Japan Air Lines plans to begin with four nonstop flights per week between Lindbergh Field (SAN) and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) in December. By March 2013, the flights would be daily.

The outbound flight to Tokyo will be JAL Flight 065, leaving Lindbergh Field at noon and touching down at Narita at 4:55 p.m. and following day. The return, JL066, will take off from NRT at 5:30 p.m. and touch down in SAN at 10:30 the following morning.

(NOTE: If you’ve ever wondered if there was a rhyme-and-reason to airline flight numbers, there is. Westbound and southbound flights usually get odd numbers, while northbound and eastbound flights get evens.)

For San Diego residents, that means no more having to drag themselves up to Los Angeles to fly out of LAX on their Asian trips, something that will make a lot of San Diego-based travelers very happy.

What makes all this possible is the aircraft JAL plans to use on this route, Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner. Indeed, the opening of the SAN-NRT route is a clear example of the kind of impact Boeing envisioned for its new state-of-the-art jet.

Its fuel-efficient engines and relatively light weight — made possible by using carbon fiber for the fuselage and deliberately limiting the plane to fewer than 300 passengers — give it the range to make the trans-Pacific hop without need of a refueling stop.

Boeing’s tales of woe in developing the 787, which led to its debut being three years late, have been well-documented, and the financial fallout from those delays isn’t over yet. But now that it’s finally entering service, you can see the kind of impact it’s going to have on air travel, just as the Boeing designers doggedly insisted that it would.

DEJA VU OF A RISING SUN
If it’s true that life is a circle, then the traveler’s circle may sometimes take him over oceans. That was how I felt when I heard that Japan Air Lines was coming to San Diego.

The year was 1976. The Vietnam war had been over for barely a year. And I was taking the first major international trip of my life, a 10-day summer swing through Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

The first leg of that trip was flown from LAX to Tokyo Haneda airport aboard a Boeing 747 from Japan Air Lines.

It was my first time on a jumbo jet, my first time out of sight of land for longer than 20 minutes, my first time aboard an airliner owned and operated by someone other than Americans.

It also would be my first experience in a land where I not only didn’t speak the language, but couldn’t even guess at what the signs said. And it would be the first time my mere presence ever drew long looks, stares and nervous giggles by virtue of being a black American.

There were other firsts. My first attempt to use chopsticks. My first encounters with sushi and sake.

Those ten days would produce a lot of memories, but it all started aboard that JAL 747, complete with its red rising sun logos adorning the wingtips.

Now, all these years later, JAL connects San Diego to Tokyo. The circle closes…and also reopens.

The JAL flights will be operated on a code-share basis with American Airlines. JAL also reportedly is looking to hook up with JetBlue.

If that happens, you’ll not only be able to connect to Japan through San Diego via JetBlue, but check your bags all the way through to Tokyo when you check in for your JetBlue flight. Sweet.

All this represents a major step up in class for San Diego, whose limited airport space and single, relatively short runway has led most of the world’s major airlines to treat California’s second most populous city like the proverbial redheaded stepchild.

Having an airline like JAL use San Diego to open a new Asian air route could cause other airlines to change how they view the city and its airport.

It also represents the start of what could be a major comeback for JAL, which was Japan’s premier airline back in the 1970s, but lost much ground thereafter to ANA, All Nippon Airways.

It probably stung the JAL leadership more than a little that ANA was the first airline in the world to begin flying the Dreamliner in commercial service last fall. But with 10 Dreamliners on order and announcing multiple new routes, JAL seems hell-bent on catching up.

And it starts in San Diego.

ALSO CHECK OUT:
Dreamliner sighting
Delta does Africa
Battle of the Bins

the SUNDAY TRAVEL DIGEST

The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Southwest Airline Boeing 737
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 landing in San Diego | © Greg Gross


ONE-STOP SHOPPING
Southwest Airlines doesn’t want you looking up their airfares on anyone else’s Web site but theirs. They seem to think this is a good idea.

I don’t.

By now, you’ve probably seen the advertising on television or in print, trumpeting to the world that if you want to find Southwest Airlines’ fares listed on the Web, you’ll find them only at their own site, southwest.com.

Ever since social media became the mantra of businesses everywhere, companies large and small have become almost obsessed with “branding,” burning their company identities into the minds of new and existing clients alike.

Now, outfits like Southwest want to keep their customers safely away from competitors on the Web by herding them onto their own little exclusive sites and keeping them there.

That means keeping their fare listings away from all those other travel sites that aggregate airfares — not just the big travel agency sites like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, but sites like Kayak and Momondo.

Amid the anarchy that rules in cyberspace, this is the digital equivalent of trying to get cats to do close-order drill.

Southwest has earned itself some respect as one of the smarter operators in the airline business, but this time, I think they got it wrong. Their airfares tend to be among the most competitive in the short-haul/mid-range airline business, a fact they should be trumpeting across every Web platform they can find.

Those other sites are popular with travelers because they make it possible to check multiple fares on multiple airlines simultaneously, a huge convenience that the travel consumer may be loathe to give up.

People aren’t going to stop comparing fares among the various airlines just because Southwest — or any other airline, for that matter — wants them to. They may, however, remember the airline that went out of its way to needlessly make that process harder.

It’s one thing to go against the grain within your industry, but rubbing your customers the wrong way is seldom a good idea.

BLIND TO THE BLIND?
A group of blind air travelers is suing United Air Lines. Why? Because their digital check-in kiosks — those handy and efficient electronic devices which allow airlines to cut most of their airport staff, have no way for the blind to use them.

Trying to deal with check-in and airport security these days is hellish enough for sighted passengers; I can’t imagine the nightmare it must be for the blind.

Or maybe I just don’t want to.

I’m guessing the rest of the airline industry, along withl the FAA and a few other federal regulators, will watching this suit very closely.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
And finally, Tokyo’s older airport, Haneda, is getting back into the world’s jetstream with a brand-new international terminal that’s only 13 minutes away from Tokyo proper.

Compared with the hour or more it can take you to reach Tokyo from the newer but very distant Narita airport…well, do the math.

Especially after that 11-hour Coach flight.

And now, for this week’s Digest:

from US News & World Report via Yahoo! Travel
Speaking of airlines, USN&R is out with a list of “America’s Meanest Airlines.” The ones that specialize in things like late departures, late arrivals, losing luggage and bumping you off your flight because they overbooked it. “Friendly skies,” my a**!

from As We Travel
Tips on how to protect your laptop when traveling — and some of them are surprising. Who would’ve thought that putting your laptop on a soft, cushiony surface was a bad idea? Well, it is.

from Nomadic Matt via Aol Travel

This travel blogger, who always has interesting posts, offers up a list of eight of the world’s most bizarre festivals, three of which are here in the United States. And yes, Burning Man is on his list, along with the Testicle Festival in Minnesota and the Baby-Jumping Festival in Spain. And that’s as far as I’m going!

AFRICA
from the Washington Post
Ever wondered what a visit to Liberia might be like?

from the Washington Post
A train ride across Tanzania. A country guidebook on steel wheels.

AMERICAS
from Black Atlas
Boston is a great town for walking, and the earliest black neighborhoods in the city were in the North End. Contributor abland has the 4-1-1.

ASIA
from Gadling
Can a collection of caves be a World Heritage Site? If they served as home to some of the world’s first human beings, maybe. The Niah Caves of Malaysia may soon be nominated.

EUROPE
from Lonely Planet
LP gives us their list of must-do’s in Turkey. If you’re wondering why Turkey is listed under Europe, it’s because, well, it is in Europe. It’s also in Asia. That fact alone makes it a place to see.

Last but not least — Yes, I know it’s Halloween. But since my flight arrived late, I missed my connecting flight on The Great Pumpkin, so I’m ignoring it!