Free flight ploy ends in jail

Some people will do anything for a free flight. Instead of waiting for the airline to screw up, Arthur David Proskin used a bump by the beverage cart as his ticket to glory … and hopefully anywhere in the continental United States. He used what was probably an accident to shout obscenities at the flight attendant who so egregiously wronged him (hint for the tone-deaf, this is sarcasm) and other passengers.

Well, Proskin has learned that wishes do come true. And you better be careful what you … blah, blah, blah.

The guy’s headed to jail. He hatched his plan on a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Palm Springs, CA and caused it to be diverted to Midland International Airport. On the ground , the gump was arrested.

“Free” won’t be in this 44-year-old’s vocabulary for another 2 ½ years. A guilty plea back in October made sure of that.

What’s the moral of the story? Since a lot of jails actually charge for room and board (at least here in New York), there’s no such thing as a free lunch.


Business travelers lead the downward spiral

Thank the recession. In particular, thank the business travelers. These guys are the backbone of the travel industry, racking up thousands of dollars in expenses a week, filling planes and paying full price because they don’t have a choice. I spent five years gripped by that lifestyle, and I don’t miss it. But, I did learn who keeps the travel market afloat, and it’s not you (and it’s not me anymore). Since these guys aren’t spending as much money as they did a year or two ago, everyone is suffering.

And, you could benefit from all this.

Hotels and airlines are offering fantastic deals right now in large part because the business travelers aren’t checking in the way they used to. An AP reporter, for example, nabbed a room at the Waldorf Astoria in Palm Springs, CA for $130 a night (including taxes). Oh, and it was the “Spa Villa.”

So, how bad is it? Smith Travel research pegs occupancy at North American hotels at 52.3 percent, down 10.3 percent from a year ago. Hotels’ average daily rates were down 3.3 percent on average, to $101.84. Hotels are half full (or, half empty?), and rooms aren’t fetching as much.

If you think it could be worse, it is. The real number that hotels watch is REVPAR – revenue per available room. Basically, take all the money a hotel pulls in for a day and divide it by the total number of rooms in the hotel (not just the rooms that are occupied). After all, every room – occupied or not – represents a chance for the hotel to make money. So, the true test of its performance is how well a property is doing relative to its entire inventory. This is the number by which hotels live and die.

It’s down 13.3 percent to $53.28.

So, if you expect Monty Hall to be at the front desk, you won’t be disappointed. They need to make a deal, and you stand to win big. As always, there is a catch. You may have to pay for your room before your trip and submit to draconian cancellation terms. If you can’t stomach such words as “non-refundable,” this market is made for you.

Elvis Presley: More Than Graceland

I’ve been to the gates of Graceland. I had grand plans to visit a year ago, but since my direct flight out of Columbus was canceled and I was rerouted through Detroit, I arrived in Memphis 15 minutes after closing. I was on my way to Mississippi and had no time for a tour the day of my return flight. A minor disappointment.

I did see the special Elvis exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame years ago. One of the TVs Elvis shot was on display. There was much more than that, but who can forget a TV with a bullet hole?

For folks who seek out anything Elvis, and I’m not saying I’m one of them, there’s a new tourist site in the works. Some people already show up in Palm Springs, California wanting to go inside the house where Elvis once lived. The couple who own it want to return it to Elvis’s glory days splendor and have an idea that it might also attract people who might want to get married there. That’s not so far-fetched. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law got married by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas. Not that the place in Palm Springs would have an Elvis impersonator who performs ceremonies, but that would be an interesting addition, come to think of it. The photo is on AOL’s homepage today. Click on it for a link to an Elvis quiz also on AOL. Just a little something extra.