Look at the calendar, my friends—it ain't April Fool's Day. A Market Metrix survey of 35,000 combined visitors to both cities shows that people prefer Atlantic City to Las Vegas, albeit by a slim margin. A.C. edged out Sin City in overall customer satisfaction, as well as "emotion scores," which measure seemingly unquantifiable attributes such as how sophisticated and hip/cool each city is. Atlantic City was considered to be a far greater value, which is probably the source of most of its appeal.
I can't help but feel a little befuddled here. I grew up in Jersey, and I've been to Atlantic City a number of times, though admittedly not in years. I recall, however, a prevailing feeling of shabbiness, and what I remember most is seeing bus after bus unloading retirees from the northern suburbs. Not exactly hip and cool, right? Vegas, on the other hand, is a nonstop circus of over-the-top debauchery and glamour, even if the latter is mostly superficial.
That said, Atlantic City has changed a great deal in the past five or seven years. New hotels such as the Borgata have classed up the place, bringing in celebrity chefs and popular acts like Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton (and Paul Anka, but who's counting?). Conversely, Vegas is creeping toward overkill (which, for Vegas, is saying a lot), with mega-hotel after mega-hotel rising up like a bad poker player's debt.
I turn to you, my fair readers, for some insight here. Help a lost blogger make sense of this. Is Atlantic City, tucked away in stinky (but loveable) New Jersey, really preferable to the glitzy, elegant, celebrity-magnet kingdom of Las Vegas? Post your comments below!
Ahh to be whisked through the airport by trained flying aces instead of standing on a 2.5 mile-long security line in my tennis socks holding a quart-sized bag crammed full of three -ounce bottles of lotion. That would be heavenly. Clearly readers know that I have delusions of grandeur when it comes to travel. Stars of course get this treatment all the time, as was recently highlighted in The Wall Street Journal article. Airline workers admit that there are "special service" staffers that escort VIPs through airports to waiting planes or limousines. Heck, they even say that there are special rooms, some hidden behind unmarked doors adjacent to gates, reserved for said important travelers. I like to imagine that accessing these special rooms is a lot like getting into secret rooms in old castles and such. Perhaps Posh and Becks know to lean on just the right spot of grey wall paneling and voila! The door is open! Maybe Ms. Aniston simply picks up the red emergency phone that none of us mere mortals would be brave enough to touch and she is spun into a secret lair just next to the gate. Who knows, and frankly, who among us will ever be able to find out? Apparently two private firms, Airport Assistance Worldwide and LJR & Associates (adding to the mystery, they have no website!), offer these types of specialty whisking services for surprisingly reasonable prices. Scrape up $100 or so and you can feel like a celebrity. Without the paparazzi, of course.
With airlines wringing money out of passengers like water from rain-soaked wool socks, it was most encouraging to stumble upon Delta's plan to create new, more commodious airplane seats for coach class.
What? No more feedlot fun with 200 of your closest strangers? No more olfactory guessing games about which of my seatmates had the onion soup for lunch? No more need to request an annulment from the guy in the middle seat if I want to use the bathroom?
dvice, the new seats are called "fixed cocoons" and will be installed in Delta's Boeing 767 and 777 economy-class sections by 2010. The unique shape and position of these seats will let you rest your head to the side without fear of drooling on your neighbor's shoulder. The staggering of the seats means the dude behind you won't be tempted to employ the Knee Defender to counter your recline. Heck, there's even a footrest, not to mention space for all to exit.
This might just be the best news to come out of the airline industry since JetBlue started offering DirecTV.
United is the latest major U.S. carrier to add new fees, but it's hardly alone. Airlines have been boosting prices left and right over the past year or so, ostensibly to offset record fuel prices, to the point where flying is ordering from an a la carte menu. Checking a second bag? That will cost you. Want a sandwich on the plane? Better have your credit card. Want a window seat? Pony up the cash, brotha!
By all appearances, however, it would seem the airlines have run out of items or services for which they can tack on additional gouges (did I say gouges?).
Note I said seem that way.
It would not be at all shocking to this industry satirist to see airlines begin charging for the most fundamental components of the flying experience. When you think about it, charging for seat cushions, seat belts, and overhead storage would be sure-fire moneymakers for the airlines. After all, who’s going to sit through a cross-country flight without a seat cushion?
I know it may be dangerous to make these suggestions, lest a bold airline exec take them seriously, but here are some more basic services to which the airlines could attach fees:
A cover charge for physical entry onto the plane: I'm imagining a burly, sunglass-wearing club bouncer standing behind a velvet rope. Of course, there's no band behind the airline door, no pomegranate martinis, no comfy lounge areas, and certainly no hot dating scene—okay, there's nothing particularly appealing about the inside of a plane at all. Unless…
You pay a charge for polite treatment from flight attendants. They're generally pleasant, cheerful folks, but you have to wonder how many of them are faking it. Who can blame them? They deal with rude passengers, long flights, and night after night in unfamiliar hotel rooms. They probably deserve an extra $20 to be nice to people.
Bathrooms: The final frontier. I feel horrible even mentioning this, as if I were releasing some deadly virus into the air, but wouldn't charging for bathroom access be the pinnacle of airline nickel-and-diming? And with the recent reversal of a New York State passenger bill of rights, it's clear that the government doesn't exactly have our backs either. I have to imagine this will never, ever happen.
So, what do you think the airlines can charge us for? Add your comments below, but remember—the airlines read our blog every day (Seriously! Don't laugh!) and they're always looking for new revenue sources. So if you suggest charging for a personal floatation device … well, don't say I didn't warn you.
Seasoned travelers that we are, Team BookingBuddy decided to regale you with our five worst flight experiences. So fasten your safety belt and stow your carry-on, here they come.
5.) We’ve all heard that luggage can arrive at a different destination than you do, so when I heard that one of our team members had to go pick up his checked bag at an alternate terminal at his home airport, I didn’t think much of it. Until he mentioned that the bag he was getting was full of heavy tools related to the propane trade (don’t ask). Then I felt sympathetic. A bit. Then he added that due to airport construction, the terminal was only accessible by walking roughly two miles … outside. In 90-plus degree heat. Did I mention the heavy tools? Ick.
4.) Returning from one's honeymoon is definitely a big reality check. No more la-la land, no more signing drink charges to a room number; it’s time to get back to the real world. This change of scenery is bad enough, but made even worse when your flight is late and you have a connection to make. And when said late flight then sits on the tarmac at your arrival destination for more than an hour, panic sets in. Our fearless BB team member was then stuck running through Miami International, making it through customs in record time, only to be confronted with the Great Wall of China that is Miami International’s security line. Luckily this woman is a fast thinker and quickly relayed her sad tale to the agent working the first-class line and voila, she and new hubby were whisked through security quickly. After a refreshing sprint from security to gate, they arrived in time to see standby passengers sitting … in their seats! At this point, the new Mrs. let fly with what she describes as a “stream of profanity.” Unfortunately, the newlyweds spent their first night back from their honeymoon at the airport hotel. They did get to fly home the following morning, but all their saved-up honeymoon relaxation was gone like yesterday’s pina colada.
3.) We’re lucky enough here at BB Headquarters to be taken on a yearly team trip. This year’s destination was fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. A good time was had by all. But since all good things must come to an end, we eventually had to board planes back to H.Q. With lots of team members on the same flights home, a whole contingency of BBers were treated to a very, ahem, gassy passenger. For five hours. Straight. Apparently no matter where you sat, you were a victim. Horrendous.
2.) A frightened colleague told me about the time his flight into JFK had to pull up at the last second just before landing. This has happened to yours truly many times, so admittedly I wasn’t too impressed. Until he went on to say that the plane had to pull up to avoid hitting a fuel truck that had suddenly pulled onto the runway. Right in front of his plane. This is tied with the time another teammate sat on his plane at O'Hare and watched the de-icing truck currently working on his plane begin to smoke and then finally go up in flames. He could see employees on the tarmac running frantically from the scene, but his plane didn’t budge. The truck was fully engulfed in flames as they finally pulled away from the jetway. Hopefully the heat from the fire de-iced them adequately.
1.) I recently had the experience of sharing a row with a very tiny woman and her very, very large husband. Kind of Jack Sprat-ish in reverse. I was window, she was middle, he was aisle and half of middle. This in and of itself does not a story make, until shortly after takeoff when Tiny starts to berate her husband for drinking too much. Uh-oh. I’m trapped! Apparently the Tanqueray he’s pouring down his throat has some deafening affect, because he does a good job of not hearing her. And then she starts in on his diabetes and how he’s killing himself. And how she called the office last week to learn from Mr. Big’s secretary that he couldn’t come to the phone as he was currently passed out in his office. At this point Big roars to life and grabs Tiny by the face and tells her to shut up. At this point I also have come to the conclusion that I need to go to the bathroom. Badly. Waiting as long as I can I finally tell Tiny that I need to be excused to use the ladies' room. When she passes this info on to Big, he smirks and barks at her “I don’t know how the (expletive) she thinks she’s going to do that.” Rut row. Of course this wasn't some short-haul flight, and I was treated to much more colorful dialogue and bouts of Tiny staring wistfully at pictures of her little white dog for the duration. When we finally landed it was all I could do not to climb across laps and seats to get off of that plane.
Have you had a bad flight experience? Please tell us about it by clicking on the comment link below!
JetBlue is now being branded, at least by Runner's World Chief Running Officer Bart Yasso (I know, his name sounds like a spammer's pseudonym, but he's real), as "the airline for runners." Why? JetBlue has the most legroom in coach (runner no like cattle-car crunch), as well as unlimited snacks and water. The site has interactive running maps on one side and a JetBlue booking tool on the other. I'm guessing this is a bigger deal to runners than to JetBlue, but I'm sure the airline is happy to take athletes on its flights, as long as they are well-showered prior to boarding.
But this new niche branding, which caters to the relatively small number of Americans who are truly fit, misses a golden opportunity to target the "silent majority": couch potatoes. Yes, the average U.S. passenger's derriere ain't squeezing into the average airplane seat, even on JetBlue. We don't need an airline for bony little runners in diminutive shorts who can slip easily into economy seats—we need one for us chubsters who require double-wide parking spots for our full figures.
What I'm proposing isn't a few tweaks to make domestic air travel more comfortable for regular folks—I want an Extreme Makeover: Airline Edition. Your next flight might be on a 737, but it'd be a lot more hospitable than what we're used to. There'd be the welcome mat outside and the slipper-bearing pooch wagging his tail when you stepped onboard, obviously. The main cabin wouldn't be divided into seating classes, but would just be one long living room, complete with comfy sofas and La-Z-Boy recliners.
And forget about JetBlue's water and protein bars, the real American's airline would feature bottomless fountain sodas and all all-you-can-eat buffets. We'd fill up on Fanta Grape and buffalo wings before sacking out in front of the plasma TV.
The only problem is deciding who gets to hold the remote.
In case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours, let me get you up to speed on some big airline news: Delta and Northwest have agreed to merge, thus creating the world's largest airline. The deal is still pending government approval and, like any other unfathomably large business transaction, it will take years for the whole thing to be truly finalized. It's worth something like 20 bajillion dollars, and there are other very large numbers involved as well.
In honor of the day's news, I think it's worth listing off the five greatest mergers of all time. As you'll see, these mergers are not limited to any one category (unless you know of a way to connect innovations in fine dining to mythical creatures), but each of these has, in some way, changed life as we know it. Here we go!
5. Breakfast for Dinner There is nothing in the world like a big stack of pancakes or French toast at 8 o'clock at night. Throw in some bacon and eggs and coffee, and you have a dinner fit for a king. It's difficult to say why breakfast for dinner is so indulgent, but it is, just like eating ice cream for breakfast or watching daytime television when you're home "sick."
4. The Minotaur The merger of man and bull was brief, thanks to Theseus, but how cool would it be to have Minotaurs roaming the lands? It would be terrifying, of course, because the Minotaur devoured Athenian boys and girls offered as sacrifice, but I think you'd be okay so long as you stayed out of sketchy looking labyrinths (which is generally good advice anyway).
3. The Twinkie-Wiener Sandwich Allegedly created by Weird Al Yankovic in his (very underrated) film "UHF," the Twinkie-wiener sandwich is about as American as a sandwich can get. Processed pastry-like substance meets processed meat-like substance to create a delicious, remarkably unhealthy gastronomic masterpiece. Seriously, do you have any idea what you're actually putting in your mouth when you eat one of these? Does it matter? No, and no.
2. The Traveling Wilburys This merger resulted in the supergroup to end all supergroups: Tom Petty (!), Roy Orbison(!!), George Harrison (!!!), Bob Dylan (!!!!), and Jeff Lynne (…?). Okay, I admit I had to Google Jeff Lynne when I read his name (he was in Electric Light Orchestra, which penned the classic tune, Evil Woman, and which should not be confused with Doctor Teeth and the Electric Mayhem), but still, what a lineup. And seriously, Jeff Lynne is a talented guy.
1. The smart car One part automobile, one part golf cart, one part Rascal motor scooter, this merger is all about gas mileage. And being small. And that's about it. Still, while I'll happily poke fun at this little runt of a vehicle, I firmly believe in the smart car and its value to society. Unless you're moving a couch, a baseball team, or several large boulders, you really don't need a Yukon Denali, OK? All the average commuter/grocery shopper/Sunday driver needs is something about the size of a smart car. Which is also about the size of a Radio Flyer Wagon. Or a shoebox.
Admittedly, the chances of my inheriting a not-yet-discovered trust fund and trotting around the globe are slim-to-none. It’s sad but true. I have, however, thought that perhaps one day I would travel in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin and enjoy a lavish yet complimentary in-flight spa treatment by one of their trained “In-Flight Beauty Therapists.” Perhaps I’d elect for a “Handsome Hands” manicure or a “Back in the Clouds” upper back massage en route to London. What better way to rejuvenate at 30,000 feet?
Alas, dear reader, these dreams might be dashed. Virgin recently held a crisis meeting with all of its In-Flight Beauty Therapists to discuss the fate of these services. And a source who has had the privilege of flying Upper Class to the U.K. alerted me to an email he received that said the airline is “reviewing the future” of in-flight beauty.
Why? Apparently Sir Richard feels that expanded ground spa offerings at Virgin’s Clubhouse are much more valuable and appreciated services. Sure, it’s great to get your hair blown out by a Bumble and bumble stylist whilst awaiting your transatlantic voyage, but it lacks the cachet of saying you had your nails done en route to your destination. En route! That’s so much cooler! And the bragging rights, don’t even start!
Undoubtedly these cuts have more to do with rising fuel costs and the global credit crunch than passenger preferences. Just another example of the airlines’ need to cut corners. Unfortunately, I’d rather they cut cuticles.
The Wall Street Journal recently suggested that airlines actively seek celebrity passengers because they bring the carriers cachet that ordinary schmoes like you and me are dazzled by. So for an international superstar to be banned by an airline, he or she would have to do something pretty bad.
Enter Naomi Campbell. The 38-year old supermodel (who may be demoted to simply "model" after her latest escapade) was arrested at London's Heathrow airport, where she was due to catch a British Airways flight to Los Angeles. When BA employees were unable to locate a missing bag of Miss Campell's, she allegedly "flew into a rage" and wound up spitting at one of the police officers who were trying to detain her. I guess if you're going to be spat at by someone, you could do worse than a supermodel, but saliva is saliva and laws are laws, so Campbell got dragged off by the cops.
Perhaps one isolated "babe behaving badly" incident might have been overlooked by British Airways, but the leggy Campbell has a history of violence:
Throwing a telephone at an assistant
Beating an assistant with a BlackBerry.
Assault on an Italian actress.
Another instance of battering an employee with a cell phone.
I'd say British Airways should be relieved to get out of the transporting-Naomi-Campbell business with no actual bloodshed.
All afternoon here at BookingBuddy HQ, we've been discussing the implications of the European Union's decision to allow mobile phones on planes. If I could sum up our conclusions in a few words, I'd go with "horrible, abrasive, and entirely unwanted noise."
Granted, it's up to each airline to determine whether or not it will provide cell phone service to its passengers, and Lufthansa should be commended for refusing to allow onboard phone use. But the EU's decision is a landmark move that could seriously degrade the flying experience for everyone. I understand some customers will benefit from cell phone access in the air, but it doesn't seem worth the grating one-way chatter the rest of us will have to endure. Hopefully most people will text or email. Sigh.
Anyway, it's probably a good idea to put a positive spin on the news. No one likes a Debbie Downer, right? So I've come up with a list of five items that would have been worse for the EU to approve. Next time the passenger seated next to you spends the entire flight yapping on his or her mobile, be thankful the person doesn't have one of the following:
…Wait for it…
…Wait for it…
Okay, truth is, I couldn't think of anything. I tried, I promise, but nothing short of the obvious (guns, tigers, etc.) came to mind. A cell phone is the worst non-lethal instrument a person could be allowed to employ on an airplane, and now the EU has given airlines the OK to allow these monstrosities aboard. If you can think of something worse, please let me know.