Paying More For Flights? Try $70.6 Million Per Seat

paying more for flightsTravelers have become accustomed to paying more for flights as airline fees soar, tapping them for billions. Between baggage fees, service fees and in-flight fees, it is getting harder to find cheap fares and no one knows that better than NASA.

As the space shuttle program came to an end in 2011, NASA began relying on the Russian Space Agency to ferry astronauts and supplies back and forth from the International Space Station (ISS). But even NASA, OK with paying $65 million per seat, did not see the latest price hike coming. Agreeing to pay $424 million for the flights of six astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to service the ISS in 2016 and the first half of 2017, NASA is not happy.

But NASA really has no other choice than to pay the $70.6 million per seat fare as Russia has the market cornered as the only way to get to and from the space station.Yes, several U.S. companies are in the process of taking that business away from Russia, but those efforts are a few years away. SpaceX is making cargo shipments, but not shipping humans yet. Still, according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, had congress approved NASA’s funding request for commercial space travel, the situation could have been avoided.

“Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017,” said Bolden in a NASA blog post reported by LaboratoryEquipment.

It’s a tough place to be for NASA. On the other hand, the $100 million they spent to build a home for retired space shuttle Atlantis in Florida could have come in handy right about now. At least we can choose not to check luggage, comparison shop and bring our own meals on board. Astronauts don’t have that option.



[Photo – Flickr user chatarra picks]

Two Days After Scare, Russia Bans Flights Over Syria

Just two days after a commercial airliner with 159 passengers detoured to avoid the danger of flying over a combat zone, Russia has officially banned flights over Syria, Reuters is reporting.

According to the news outlet, some Russian airlines had ignored a warning issue in February, and continued to pass over war-torn Syria. One of those planes was a chartered flight operated by NordWind Airlines, which reportedly had two land-to-air missiles fired at it as it passed over Syria on its way back from an Egyptian resort, The Guardian wrote Monday.

In later reports, officials have seemed to downplay the theory, citing the pilot was concerned about “signs of war activity.” According to Reuters, “a Russian tourism official said there was no shooting whatsoever.”

[via Airwise & USA Today]

[Photo credit: Flickr user leff]

Travel Tool: Interactive World Heritage Site Map

When it comes to planning my next trip, a pretty photo only inspires me half as much as a good map. I’m particularly partial to UNESCO‘s interactive World Heritage List map, which I spend more time clicking on than I’d care to admit. The map identifies the List’s 962 properties across the globe and provides information about each, including an array of photos for those who need the photographic impetus.

More than anything else, it’s a useful tool to find astonishing places beyond the Angkor Wats, Serengetis and Venices of the world. Did I know there were 100-meter-tall stone towers in northwestern Russia. Or that there’s a place called the Inaccessible Islands in the South Atlantic? I do now, and I want to go.

The map is also a great way to find less touristed sights in popular countries. The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Thailand gets short shrift from most visitors, for instance, but is a completely unique environment in Southeast Asia.

Don’t know where to start? The red points are World Heritage Sites in danger of being destroyed or permanently altered by man or nature, so they may not be around forever.

[Photo Credit: UNESCO/Google]

Google Street View Takes Us To New Heights On Everest, Kilimanjaro And More

Google Street View now takes to some of the tallest mountains on the planetWe’re big fans of Google Street View here at Gadling and over the past few months we’ve enjoyed the addition of the Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon River, amongst other destinations. Through the use of modern technology, Google has given us the opportunity to explore some very exciting places without ever having to leave the comfort of our own homes. Now, with its latest addition to the Street View Collection, the Internet search giant is taking us to new heights as they take their high-tech cameras to the slopes of some of the tallest mountains on the planet.

The latest Street View gallery is entitled “The World’s Highest Peaks” and it includes views on and around four of the Seven Summits, which consist of the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. Those locations include Everest Base Camp in Nepal, as well as the summits of Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in Tanzania, Elbrus (18,510 feet) in Russia and Aconcagua (22,841 feet) in Argentina. The gallery also spotlights various other sections of each of those mountains, including some of the more well known mountaineering camps or other landmarks, such as the famous Lava Tour on Kilimanjaro.

Not all of the images in the new gallery are captured from such lofty heights, however. For instance, the Himalayan village of Namche Bazaar is given the Street View treatment, allowing us to take a virtual stroll along its narrow walkways. The Google cameras were even allowed inside the colorful Buddhist monastery in Tengboche, a popular attraction for those trekking to Everest.

If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to climb these peaks but the thought of the thin air makes you light headed, then this new gallery is just for you. Enjoy the heights of these iconic mountains without ever stepping foot on any of them.

[Photo Credit: Google]

Survey Ranks ‘World’s Most Unfriendliest’ Countries

Have you ever been to a country that just seems to give tourists the cold shoulder? Now, there are some figures behind those unwelcome feelings; the World Economic Forum has put together a report that ranks countries based on how friendly they are to tourists.

The extensive analyses ranks 140 countries according to attractiveness and competitiveness in the travel and tourism industries. But one category, “attitude of population toward foreign visitors,” stands out.

According the data, Bolivia (pictured above) ranked as the most unfriendly country, scoring a 4.1 out of seven on a scale of “very unwelcome” (0) to “very welcome” (7).

Next on the list were Venezuela and the Russian Federation, followed by Kuwait, Latvia and Iran (perhaps when visiting one of these countries, you should try your best to not look like a tourist?).

On the opposite side of the scale were Iceland, New Zealand and Morocco, which were ranked the world’s most welcoming nations for visitors.

Tourism infrastructure, business travel appeal, sustainable development of natural resources and cultural resources were some of the key factors in the rankings. Data was compiled from an opinion survey, as well as hard data from private sources and national and international agencies and organizations such as the World Bank/International Finance Corporation and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), among others.

The report also emphasized the need for continued development in the travel and tourism sector, pointing out that the industry currently accounts for one in 11 jobs worldwide.

All of the results of the survey can be found after the jump.

Attitude of population toward foreign visitors
(1 = very unwelcome; 7 = very welcome)

Friendliest

1. Iceland 6.8
2. New Zealand 6.8
3. Morocco 6.7
4. Macedonia, FYR 6.7
5. Austria 6.7
6. Senegal 6.7
7. Portugal 6.6
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina 6.6
9. Ireland 6.6
10. Burkina Faso 6.6

Unfriendliest

1. Bolivia 4.1
2. Venezuela 4.5
3. Russian Federation 5.0
4. Kuwait 5.2
5. Latvia 5.2
6. Iran 5.2
7. Pakistan 5.3
8. Slovak Republic 5.5
9. Bulgaria 5.5
10. Mongolia 5.5

Have you ever visited somewhere where they didn’t exactly roll out the welcome mat? Alternatively, have you visited somewhere on the “unfriendly” list and had a great, welcoming experience? Let us know how your travel experiences compare with the survey’s ranking in the comments below.

[via CNN]

[Photo credit: Phil Whitehouse, Wikimedia Commons]