Eight weeks remain in 2013-including the busy holiday travel season-but apparently Airfarewatchdog has seen enough. Last week it announced its picks for the best, and worst, U.S. airlines of the year. The top three were Frontier, Virgin America and JetBlue with United ranking last.
For criteria, Airfarewatchdog looked at canceled flights, on-time arrivals, mishandled bags, denied boardings and customer satisfaction. Interestingly, top overall airline Frontier didn’t rank at the top of any individual category.The entire overall results:
Finding your airplane seats a bit tighter? Good news, it’s not because you stopped at Cinnabon one too many times while waiting for your flight (well, probably not anyway).
Over the past decade, airlines have been adding seats to their more expensive sections. But rather than carry fewer economy passengers as a result, carriers like “American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France-KLM and Dubai’s Emirates Airline are cutting shoulder space by wedging an extra seat into each coach row,” the Wall Street Journal reports.”For almost 20 years, the standard setup in the back of a Boeing 777 was nine seats per row. But last year, nearly 70% of its biggest version of the plane were delivered with 10-abreast seating, up from just 15% in 2010.”
By cutting back on the already tight seats in coach, airlines are hoping travelers will be more inclined to shell out for roomier, more expensive seats. You can fight this trend by refusing to upgrade and swinging your overstuffed carryon into the shoulders of those who have.
Over 20 passengers on an Air China flight were sick after eating expired beef pancakes on a domestic flight to Beijing. One passenger shared a photo of the out-of-date food on Chinese social network Weibo showing the expiration date of October 2, four days before her flight. An official statement by the airline claimed that incorrect packaging was to blame for the “misunderstanding,” and that any leftover or expired food is regularly discarded. The passenger claimed that flight attendants refused to acknowledge the issue or warn anyone eating the bad meals.
Food poisoning is fortunately rare on airlines, but it does happen. Earlier this summer, Delta passengers on an Istanbul-New York flight suffered possible food poisoning and were met by medics on arrival at JFK. A Miami family sued American Airlines in 2011 after a man died allegedly due to food poisoning on a flight from Barcelona.
Read our advice on dealing with food poisoning while traveling, in the air or on the ground.
Whether you are traveling in the U.S. or having a staycation this Saturday, be sure to include some culture. September 28 is Museum Day Live! (aka Free Museum Day), when museums all over the country open their doors without charging admission.
The annual event is inspired by the Smithsonian museums, which offer free admission every day. You’ll have to register and download your free ticket in advance, which will get two guests in free to participating museums.
A few of our favorite museums participating:
Chicago Smart Museum of Art
The University of Chicago’s art museum is always free, but this weekend is also the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, and museum-goers can also enjoy free concerts in the sculpture garden.
Dallas/Ft. Worth American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum
Regular price: $7 adults
Serious airline nerds, frequent flyers and those on a long layover can check out this museum of aviation and American AIrlines history, just a few miles from DFW airport. Exhibits include a rare Douglas DC-3 plane.
Las Vegas Burlesque Hall of Fame
Regular suggested donation or gift shop purchase: $5)
What’s Sin City without a little strip tease? See costumes, props and photos documenting the history, traditions and stars of burlesque dance. Los Angeles Grammy Museum
Regular price: $12.95 adults
Pop music lovers can check out four floors of music exhibits and memorabilia. The current exhibition features the career of Ringo Starr, including an interactive drum lesson with the Beatles‘ rhythm man himself.
New York Museum of Chinese in America
Regular price: $10 adults
Learn about the immigrant experience in New York’s Chinatown in a building designed by Maya Lin. Current special exhibitions on the glamour of Shanghai women and the role Chinese-American designers in fashion. Follow it up with dim sum in the neighborhood.
San Francisco Cartoon Art
Regular price: $7 adults
Take your comics seriously? This is the art museum for you, with 6,000 works of cartoon cels, comic strips and book art. Best. Museum. Ever.
Washington, D.C. Museum of Crime and Punishment
Regular price: $21.95
Value the free admission and your freedom at a museum dedicated to criminals and police work. Fans of police procedural TV shows will enjoy the CSI lab and the filming studio for “America’s Most Wanted.”
While you may try to rack up frequent flyer miles from travel, airline-branded credit cards or online shopping, have you ever thought about pudding? One clever traveler turned a Healthy Choice promotion into enough miles to fly the world multiple times.
In 1999, Civil Engineer David Phillips noticed a promotion from Healthy Choice offering 500 American Airlines miles for every 10 product bar codes sent in, with a double bonus for sending them in the first month. Phillips figured out that the promotion would extend to all of their products, and searched his area supermarkets for the best deal. He started with 90-cent cans of soup, and then found a better deal: individual packages of chocolate pudding for 25 cents apiece. He bought every one available, spending a total of $3,140. This gave him 12,150 puddings worth over 1.2 million airline miles.
The story gets sweeter when you hear how he collected the bar codes for redemption. He started by putting his family to work, but they were soon (literally) sick of peeling the pudding lids and eating the stuff. He offered them up to Salvation Army for free, in return for the bar codes. For this, he was also able to get an $800 charitable tax deduction, bringing his investment down to around $2200. Netting over a million miles also gives him lifetime gold elite status on American, giving him an extra boost for accruing miles. His story inspired a similar plot in the movie “Punch Drunk Love.” Phillips continues to take advantage of frequent flyer promotions and deals, and now has over 4 million miles in his accounts.