Are Hassle Free Airlines Truly Possible?

airplane interior
jerdlngr, Flickr

A new airline in Memphis is looking to take the frustration out of flying, letting travelers skip airport security and show up at the airport just minutes before their flight takes off.

Southern Airways Express has been operational for four months and the carrier’s CEO believes it’s the answer to many passengers’ woes.

“You’re going to be able to walk from your car less than 50 yards in most cases to the aircraft without having to go through any TSA security hassles. You only have to get here 20 minutes before the plane departs,” CEO Stan Little told a local TV station.

Right now, the airline serves 10 regional domestic routes, but it’s planning to expand and may even add an international flight later this year.For passengers fed up with the nightmare that air travel has become, it all sounds too good to be true. Just the other day we told you about the disgraceful report card the TSA received following a government audit which found that a number of security screeners were sleeping, stealing and taking bribes on the job. The story prompted many readers to share their own tales of humiliation, frustration, or anger at having to deal with airport security.

The desire for a hassle-free airline is clearly strong, but can such a carrier truly take off in this day and age of global threats and terrorism fears? Southern Airways has managed to bypass TSA checks by flying in and out of smaller regional airports that don’t yet have strict security protocols, and any route expansions would likely involve destinations with similar secondary airports. Still, flying out of alternate hubs might be a small price to pay for travelers who have had enough of body scanners, bag searches and liquid restrictions.

What do you think? Can an airline like this be made to work?

Eurostar Revamps Services In A Bid To Lure Fliers

Long-distance train travel is making a comeback with Eurostar announcing plans to expand its services. The high-speed train, which primarily serves London, Brussels and Paris, has its sights set on new destinations across the European continent.

Eurostar says its entire system is undergoing an overhaul – from the booking process, to the routes, to the trains themselves. The company’s website has been given a facelift in order to create a more user-friendly booking portal, and brand new uniforms have been designed for the crew. Updated trains are also in the pipeline and are expected to be up and running by 2015.As far as network expansion goes, Eurostar says it has its eye on a number of possible routes including London-Holland and London-Germany. Eurostar’s Chief Executive Nicolas Petrovic says he will be looking closely at routes that currently have a lot of air traffic. He told CNN he hopes travelers will eventually come to think of train travel the same way they think of flying.

Eurostar’s overhaul comes in the wake of stiff competition from German train line Deutsche Bahn, which has said it will offer trips across the Channel Tunnel starting in 2016.

[Photo credit: Flickr user Mike Knell]

Get flight info and airport reviews with RouteHappy

flight infoWhen it comes to booking hotels, travelers have plenty of options for finding information, recommendations, and tips with TripAdvisor, booking engine reviews, and other user-generated sites, in addition to guidebooks and other traditional media. But as air travel gets more restrictive and less comfortable, how can you choose the easiest flights, or at least be prepared for the inconveniences? RouteHappy is a new user-generated social network for flight info, reviews and tips for airlines, airports, and routes. The site is populated with comprehensive global flight schedules, Wi-Fi availability by route, and on-time history. Users can enter their tips and experiences from getting to the airport, check-in, airport amenities, and boarding to in-flight comfort, arrival immigration and transportation options.

From searching on RouteHappy, I decided it was worth the extra money for JetBlue’s Even More amenity program for a shorter security line (plus more legroom and other perks), and discovered a much easier connection from Frankfurt to Austin through Denver instead of the much busier (and often delayed) Chicago. I’ve also left tips on the site for navigating airports in Istanbul, London, and Budapest with a baby. You can follow “Route Experts” for hidden gems and “flyer bewares” on frequently-flown routes, and learn about which airport shops are worth a stop, which airlines make your coach experience feel like an upgrade, or where you should be prepared for long immigration lines.
flight infoRouteHappy gets better with every review added, so be sure to add your advice while searching for info. You can also link to your TripIt/LinkedIn account to automatically remind you to review flights and pre-populate flight info. Currently in invite-only “alpha” mode, the site has over 1,000 members in 45 countries and counting with more than 7,500 comments and tips.

Gadling readers can try out the site before it goes into public beta mode soon by using the code GadlingFliesBetter. The RouteHappy team is incredibly responsive to users and active on social media, so be sure to follow along as they share their best tips on Facebook, tweet travel news on Twitter, or just send them a message at tellus@routehappy.com.

LAN Colombia will begin flights to the U.S.

On February 1, LAN Colombia will celebrate the airline’s inaugural flight to the United States when it touches down at Miami International Airport from Bogota. The event will be marked by a water cannon salute and will be attended by the iconic Juan Valdez (and possibly his mule Conchita) in an effort to promote his coffee brand-which will now be served exclusively on all of LAN’s long-haul flights.

So why might you be interested in hopping on one of the seven weekly flights between Bogota and Miami? Not only was Bogota named one of Gadling’s picks for best budget vacations in 2012, but Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast is one of our top picks for national parks to visit in all of South America. If you need more convincing, find out why Alex Robertson Textor things Bogota is the next Buenos Aires.

Two routes, one trip – Road trip tip

Before embarking on a road trip, map out two different routes — a slower, scenic route and a shorter, faster (less scenic) route.

In case you need to reach your destination sooner than planned, you’ll have your faster route. However, try to take the more intriguing scenic route. Grab a camera, hop out, and snap some shots of the beautiful scenery you pass by. Discover the hottest eateries on your journey. Be sure to stop in, indulge in the local eats, and continue along your trip-capturing memorable moments.

NOTE: Make sure to print a copy of your scenic route and your fastest route even if you have GPS. Just in case…