United Cops Record Fine for Stranding Passengers on Tarmac

newark  nj   oct 5  united...
Shutterstock / Songquan Deng

United Airlines has received a hefty penalty for keeping passengers waiting on airplanes for hours on end while their flights were delayed. The Department of Transportation fined the carrier $1.1 million-the biggest fine of its kind so far-for tarmac delays that happened at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport last year.

Rules that were put in place in 2010 state that airlines will be penalized if they keep passengers waiting around on the tarmac for more than three hours. In United’s case, all the rule breaking happened on one particularly stormy day when 13 separate United flights were delayed because of thunder and lighting. According to the rules, United was meant to give passengers the chance to get off the plane as it was obvious flights would be held up. But the carrier didn’t. And to top it off, bathrooms on the some of the delayed planes weren’t working, leaving passengers in the lurch.The Department of Transportation says United didn’t do a very good job handling the situation and didn’t reach out to other airport personnel for help. The Department of Transportation also slammed the airline for not having a good plan in place to deal with weather-related problems in general. Some of the money from the fine will go to passengers affected by the delays, while another portion will go towards creating a tracking system at O’Hare so United can better monitor its planes.

How Hot Is It In Death Valley? Hot Enough To Draw Heat-Seeking Tourists

Death Valley temperatures
David McNew, Getty Images

Hotels in Death Valley are packed with visitors wanting to experience some of the hottest temperatures ever measured on the planet. As a historic heat wave engulfs the West, Death Valley hit 124 degrees on Saturday, and could eventually tie or surpass the 134-degree record it made in the summer of 1913.

Chris Carlson, an Associated Press photographer, explains what it’s like to be in triple-digit heat:

I know what to expect in Death Valley: Unrelenting heat so bad it makes my eyes hurt, as if someone is blowing a hair dryer in my face. I don’t leave CDs or electronics in the car because they could melt or warp. I always carry bottles of water.

But I still make mistakes. I forgot my oven mitts, the desert driving trick I learned as a teenager after burning my hands too many times on the steering wheel. And my rental car is black, adding several degrees to the outside temperature of 127. When the digital thermometer at the Furnace Creek visitor center ticks up to 128, a few people jump out of their cars to take a picture.

But how does a picture prove you were in a place with extreme heat? Tourists are having fun frying eggs on rocks, baking cookies in their rental cars and watching their shoes melt. If that sounds like fun to you, there are two hotels in Death Valley. Be sure to call ahead and ask about vacancies. This is one place you don’t want to get stranded.

Two Great Travel Apps You Will Actually Use

travel apps
mikebaird/Flickr

New smartphone travel apps are released every day. Keeping up with which ones work can burn time better spent on planning, dreaming or, better yet, actually going some place. Many travelers are appaholics who just can’t get enough. They test, load and organize pertinent apps specifically for each trip. Others want an uncluttered home screen or just travel in a more unplugged way. They only want apps they will use frequently. Here are two of those.

Shall I go on that hike right now?
Dark Sky is a simple weather app that uses state-of-the-art weather forecasting to predict weather at the user’s location for the next 60 minutes. I ran across Dark Sky looking for a good radar application to track spring storms that pop up quickly and might be coming our way. The radar feature is simple and easy to use, but the near, live forecast feature makes this one an app travelers will use frequently.Too many apps?
Passbook, the feature, is an iPhone iOS 6 exclusive and not actually an app at all. This must-use travel feature keeps boarding passes, loyalty cards, retail coupons, movie tickets and more all in one app-like place. I keep this one on my home screen because it also retains boarding passes in history for easy “did I get my miles out of that?” checking later.

To grab all that data, Passbook taps apps from airlines, movie theaters, retail places and more. Another app that works with Passbook, Squarewallet, is making fumbling for cash or cards a thing of the past. By storing your card info then presenting it, along with a photo of you and your signature at an ever-increasing number of retail places, Squarewallet is simplifying paying and eliminating clutter on smartphone home screens.

No iPhone? No problem. There is indeed an app for that too. Passbook Viewer for Android will do the trick. Check this video for more about passbook:

Galley Gossip: 10 Ways To Handle A Tight Connection

1. Book wisely. If you need to be somewhere really important, it’s probably not a good idea to book your flights with less than an hour between them. Even an hour is pushing it. An hour and a half is good. Two hours, even better. Whatever you do, don’t take the last flight out! Delays happen. So do cancelations.

2. Pay the extra fee. If you’re the anxious type and travel is stressful, pay the extra fee to sit closer to the front of the airplane and be done with it. Why start your trip out on the wrong foot and the risk a snowball effect. Because once something goes wrong, everything seems to follow suit. Better to be out a few bucks than to miss a flight! It’s worth it just to relax.

3. Check your boarding pass. Many airlines print the boarding time, not the departure time, on the boarding pass. Depending on the equipment type (smaller vs. larger aircraft), you can usually tag on another 30 to 40 minutes to your connection time. Read the fine print.

4. Switch seats. Ask a flight attendant if you can move closer to the front of the cabin on landing. Unfortunately, most flights are full these days and just because there’s an open seat up front doesn’t mean you’ll find a spot in the overhead bin for your bag too. If you’ve booked a tight connection, you might want to make sure your carry-on luggage fits under the seat in front of you.

5. Relax: I know, I know, easier said than done. Just know that while it might feel like it takes forever to disembark, the truth is almost everyone is able to deplane in less than 15 minutes. So take a deep breath and … exhale. Put in your earphones and play the most relaxing music you have. Then get ready to run. Here’s to hoping you wore appropriate shoes to sprint across the airport terminal.6. Call the airline. Don’t wait in a long line of passengers to talk to an agent. By the time it’s your turn to approach the counter, chances are the flight will have already departed. Get on the phone ASAP and call the airline’s reservation desk. Or try tweeting for an even faster response. Most airlines offer immediate feedback.

7. Hold the flight! Airlines don’t hold flights for passengers. On time departures are way too important. That said an airline might hold a flight if it’s the last flight of the day or for a large group of passengers traveling to the same destination. If it is the last flight out, rest assured the airline knows where you are and you’ll probably be booked on another flight before you even land.

8. Go, go, go! Don’t stop to talk to the agent meeting your flight. Run straight to your connecting gate and talk to the agent there, even if it’s past the departure time. Time is precious. Every second counts. Plus you never know if that flight might be delayed.

9. The thing about bad weather. If you’re delayed because you’re flying into an airport experiencing bad weather, chances are your connecting flight may also be delayed. And remember just because your departing aircraft is at the gate, doesn’t mean the outbound crew is on the ground and ready to go. They could still be in the air too. Sounds strange, I know, but we don’t stick with one aircraft all day long.

10. It’s not over until the airplane pushes away from the gate. I can’t tell you how many flights I’ve just missed only to have the airplane return back to the gate to remove a sick passenger or to fix a mechanical. I’ve actually gotten on flights airlines have brought passengers off of due to weight and balance issues that were later lifted after a creeping delay. Miracles do happen.

[Photo Credit: NewbieRunner]

Guaranteed Weather When Traveling? Scientists Think That Might Be Possible

weather

Weather conditions at any destination around the world are hard to pin down. We may have a general idea of average temperatures for any given time of the year, know that good rain gear is required for certain places or that bringing a swimsuit is a must. But exact weather conditions can often be elusive.

But what if they were not? What if, somehow, weather conditions could be modified?

Hacking The Planet,” a new series that starts this week on The Weather Channel, shows scientists developing ways to actually change the weather. Viewers can gain some insight into ways scientists may one day prevent, weaken or redirect threatening weather conditions and natural phenomena.

In each of the six initial episodes the show asks, “What if humans were no longer as susceptible to Mother Nature’s wrath?”, a question that could undoubtedly affect travel plans in a very big way.

Getting a handle on weather-related flight delays alone would be huge.

“It simply defies nature to think that humans could prevent rain from disrupting a sporting event or use lasers to draw lightning away from sensitive areas like nuclear power plants,” said Michael Dingley, senior vice president, content and development at The Weather Channel in a press release.

Surely, making even the slightest impact on rain, snow, tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions too could protect iconic destinations from ruin, cause otherwise-aborted travel plans to happen and more.

“It’s fascinating to imagine a world where we can could manipulate the planet’s most powerful natural forces,” adds Dingley. “If any of these experiments are successful, it’s truly mind-boggling to think what that could mean for our future.”

Hacking The Planet” premieres Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET and is just one of a growing number of travel-related programs from the Weather Channel. The channel is also home to “Coast Guard Florida,” “Hawaii Air Rescue,” “Plane Xtreme” and others. New Weather Channel series coming up include: “Prospectors,” which follows a group of miners searching for the rarest gems (March 5), “Breaking Ice,” which takes viewers to the North and South poles (April 2013), and “Tipping Points,” a show about charting climate change (October 2013).




[Image Credit - Flickr user .michael.newman.]