February 2008

Sweet Sixteen Hilton Style!

Posted February 29, 2008 by Heather Gilbert

Partygirlscrop_3 OMG, I totally can NOT believe this!  My parents, who are usually beyond lame, have decided to throw me the coolest Sweet Sixteen party in Boston!

My BFFs and I are going to stay in the Presidential Suite at the Hilton, which is like, beyond fabulous and I’m sure when Paris Hilton had her Sweet Sixteen she totally stayed there too.  It’s that awesome. 

And as part of this package thingie they got, we totally get three hours of limo service in an ESCALADE to take me shopping with a personal shopper to pick out my outfit for my HUGE party at the Hilton!! 

Maybe I can even be on My Super Sweet 16!!!!  AHHHHH!!!

Swissotel Chicago a real drag for smokers

Posted February 28, 2008 by Zak Patten

Healthsafetynosmkgdef_2I’ll be the first to admit it—I’m extremely anti-smoking and always have been. So I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who want to light up in their hotel rooms, rooms that I might have the misfortune of staying in someday. But according to USA Today, the Swissotel Chicago is now taking its anti-smoking measures a step further by turning its staff into bounty hunters who are financially rewarded for catching smokers in the act.

Employees who bag a live smoker are given $10 for their service. Perhaps my high school principal should have utilized this technique instead of spending his time sniffing outside the boys’ bathroom. Our hall monitors could have made more money catching puffers than they did slinging fries at Mickey D’s.

Swissotel Chicago general manager Jack Breisacher insists he doesn’t “want this to sound like a police state,” but "One person having one cigarette is really a big deal," as it costs around $500 to completely clean a room.

I’m with Breisacher. But I hope he expands the program so that guests can turn in other guests. I wonder how many smokers I’d have to nab to earn a free night at his hotel.

Throwing Your Money Away at 35,000 Feet

Posted February 27, 2008 by Carl Unger

Singaporecasinoroulette_4 It seems Airbus is in talks with customers who want to convert Airbus A380s into flying casinos.  If the A380 doesn’t ring any bells, let me remind you that it’s the largest passenger aircraft EVER.   It’s HUGE.  In my opinion you’re already taking a gamble by flying aboard these whales in the first place (how on earth do these planes even get off the ground?!).  So why not toss a few Benjamins on the roulette table while you’re up there?

Okay, so maybe I’m a little paranoid about traveling on a plane as big as the A380.  In reality, there’s no reason to be worried.  Despite its size, the A380 can take off and land on the same runways as its smaller rival, Boeing’s 747.

No reason to be worried, that is, unless you’re losing money left and right.  But fear not, because the casino jets won’t likely be ready before 2012.  There’s not even word yet on who wants them or where they would fly.

Now, what I want to know is whether or not these will be hotel-casinos in the air.  Singapore Airlines has already debuted its private first-class cabins (no funny business!), and they would go nicely with a few slot machines and a Vegas-style floor show.

Stewardess-style Exhibition Graces Museum of Aviation

Posted February 26, 2008 by Heather Gilbert

Museumofflightstyleintheaisle Quick, when I say “fashion,” what do you think of?  Mr. Giorgio Armani?  Marc Jacobs?  Icons like Grace Kelly and Katherine Hepburn?  Flight attendants?  Umm, what?  The navy polyester-clad crew who dutifully bring us Diet Cokes and show us how to strap on oxygen masks?  I don’t think so.  Well, The Museum of Flight is looking to change that.  Their new exhibit, Style in the Aisle: The History of Fashion in Flight, features flight attendant uniforms from the 1930s to the 1990s.  And let me tell you, the goods are hot.  For example, when Alaska Airlines introduced charter service to Siberia in 1970, the flight attendants were in Cossack costumes (think big furry hats).  And when Hughes Airwest flew to Mexico, you were guaranteed to have a flight attendant decked out in a cheery pastel poncho (and knee-high boots, for whatever that’s worth).  Not to mention that Emilio Pucci designed all the unis for Braniff.  Ah the days of flying as a glamorous endeavor.  If only we still had it as good!

Wanna Get Away? Couple Who Stole 5,000 Southwest Tickets Does

Posted February 25, 2008 by Zak Patten

Airfareeticketsdef_2 You have to hand it to them, they sure had gumption. I’m referring to San Antonio couple Althea and James Jackson, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud on Tuesday for stealing 5,600 tickets from Althea’s employer Southwest Airlines.

According to the AP, the tickets Althea Jackson stole “are normally given to inconvenienced passengers and vendors or to passengers who assist flight crews, such as by providing medical assistance during a flight.” I guess it wasn’t bad enough that she stole airline tickets, she took them from air industry victims and Good Samaritans.

Perhaps an even greater irony to this sad tale is the fact that James Jackson worked as bailiff at the Bexar County Justice Center. I guess the law didn’t have far to go to catch up with him. Incidentally, Jackson’s co-workers at the Justice Center were among his customers, as were the couple’s family and friends.

The Jacksons are facing a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, though their attorney predicts a much lighter sentence of about two-and-a-half years and a reduced fine. Considering the scam was worth as much as $1.8 million, these life-partners-in-crime might actually clear a profit.

Whatever time they end up serving, at least for a little while, they will not be “free to move about the country.”

Round the World on a Biofuel Plane?

Posted February 22, 2008 by Carl Unger

Biofuel Here at the BookingBuddy blog we like to poke fun, generally at the expense of airlines and other aspects of the circus-like air travel industry. So while the idea of a round-the-world flight on a plane fueled by canola oil seems ripe for the picking, it’s important to first take a step back and appreciate the undeniable significance of this undertaking.

Air travel, as most people are aware, is a major source of air pollution. I haven’t the time nor the mental capacity to figure out just how much greenhouse gas is emitted by the average cross-country flight, but I can tell you it’s a lot. Any steps, and I repeat any steps that can be taken to mitigate pollution from air travel is a good thing. A single grease plane doesn’t hold a candle to the grandiosity of Richard Branson’s $25 million challenge, but a grease plane is, on a smaller scale, a potentially workable solution. Hey, if Pearl Jam can tour on biodiesel, who’s to say short-range flights can’t also run on the stuff?

Now back to the sarcasm. Can someone say Flyalator?

Violinists Sound off about Ryanair’s New Instrument Charge

Posted February 22, 2008 by Zak Patten

Ryanair If there’s one thing I hate about air travel, it’s figuring out how to pack my violin. OK, I’m just fiddling around. I’m not a musician. But if I were, I’d be as peeved as any of the folks over at Violinist.com.

According to Kristian Rahbek Knudsen (who’s going to doubt someone with such a great name?), Ryanair wouldn’t let him board with his violin case in hand, instead requiring that he purchase an additional seat for his instrument at a cost of €300 ($436 as of this morning). Knudsen says he bought his own seat for just €100. In the carrier’s defense, if Knudsen has an antique Stradivarius, he might not want to cram it in the overhead bin with the next passenger’s dirty vacation laundry.

But it does seem that Ryanair really has it in for violins. Maybe the airline’s CEO is holding a grudge because his parents forced him to take lessons for years and his playing still screeched like fingernails across a chalkboard. 

I’m just surprised Knudsen wasn’t able to “pull some strings” so that the flight attendants would look the other way. Maybe he just doesn’t have enough pluck.

(Photo: Boeing Photo)

Alaska Air Debuts Virtual Assistant

Posted February 22, 2008 by Zak Patten

Alaskaairlinesjenn_2 With the phenomenon of Second Life and other virtual worlds now mainstream, it was only a matter of time before an airline created an online avatar of its own.

Enter Jenn, Alaska Airlines' virtual assistant, the first of her kind (species?) to "live" on a U.S. airline's website. I checked in with Jenn to see if she was, you know, cool. I feared she might be stiff and robotic (not to mention criminally unhelpful) like my electric company's virtual phone assistant.

The big difference between the two of them is that Jenn's the only "person" you'll find on Alaska's website, while Electric Company Lady is a gatekeeper for the live humans who might actually be helpful to people like me. Given this reality, I'll take Jenn any day. She may not be animated, but her face is pleasant enough, if immobile. And she seems like she genuinely wants to help. I typed in several sample questions and she instantly typed back responses, and followed up by reading them to me in her always perky voice.

Oh, and Jenn always maintains her professional demeanor, even when you throw her a curveball like, "Where do you live?" Her reply: "Right now, it appears I live with you…but don't worry, I won't overstay my welcome! How can I help you?"

I'm not sure she's ready to mix it up with the residents of Second Life, but if Jenn represents the future of airline customer service, we're in good hands.

British Airways Vaults into London Olympics

Posted February 22, 2008 by Zak Patten

Track The U.K.'s flagship carrier, British Airways, has been named a top-tier partner for London's 2012 summer Olympics. Which makes me wonder, will the airline's involvement go beyond providing transportation and getting good PR in return?

I hope so. Because the possibilities are tantalizing. For starters, commercial aircraft are perfect venues for several events, particularly those of the track-and-field variety. I'm thinking the 100-meter dash would work well on a BA 747, which has those two long aisles on either side of the middle seats. One world-class sprinter could line up at the back of each aisle and at the sound of the gun (which would have to pass through security, wouldn't it?), they'd race from the worst coach seat by the lavatory to the best flat-bed first-class accommodations—in under 10 seconds. Of course, all of the seats would be filled with Olympic spectators, cheering on the runners as they breezed by.

I'm thinking certain jumping events are well suited to British Airways' fleet. And while the long jump is a good fit for onboard entertainment, the high jump brings up overhead space limitations and the pole vault is simply out of the question. But I have to draw the line at anything involving heavy or sharp objects being thrown, such as a javelin, shot put, or discus. With fans literally in the field of play, the liability issues are too numerous to mention.

I know we're already straying a bit from standard Olympic fare, but since we're being theoretical, perhaps we could "think outside the plane"? It's all well and good to have weightlifters at the games, but British Airways could sponsor a real test of strength by asking athletes to compete in a plane pull. After all, this guy did it to get into the Guinness World Records, and he doesn't even look that big.

Interested in London? Check out:
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(Photo: William Jewell College)

'Nakation All I Ever Wanted…'

Posted February 22, 2008 by Heather Gilbert

Aanrnakations Well, it looks as if my packing crisis has been solved. I was recently sent an email from my friends at the American Association for Nude Recreation espousing the virtues of a nude vacation, or as they’ve cleverly coined, a “nakation.” The nakation, they claim, “makes good fiscal sense” now that airlines are charging extra for checked bags. Yes … I’m listening. Tempting, for sure. But the thing of it is, everyone is n-u-d-e. Now don’t get me wrong, I heart the idea of setting off on a nakation with just a small carry-on (after all, what can you possibly need to pack?) and checking nothing but my inhibitions, but in reality, I’m just not sure this is anything I could actually muster the courage to do. But if you’ve got a nakation in your future, more power to you. And more sunscreen.

(Photo courtesy of aanr.com)

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