Lost Luggage

I have never been in the unfortunate position of having an airline lose my bag (likely because I've mostly traveled with just one carry-on), but these statistics from The Los Angeles Times is heartening: 97 percent of "mishandled bags" are eventually recovered by airlines worldwide.

Yakking on the Phone at 32,000 Feet in the Sky

No phones on planes. THANK YOU.

Searching for That Cheap Ticket

There have been lots of articles written about the best way to find the cheapest airplane tickets, and it's been discussed in a lot of forums like FlyerTalk. I've pretty much heard it all: Search on Wednesdays. Search right after midnight. Search using "incognito mode" so that your web browser doesn't save your search results and show demand for a certain flight.

My Last Weekend Trip: The Cost of a Spontaneous Trip to San Francisco

Everything I did in San Francisco.

Don’t Look Down If You’re Afraid of Heights

I discovered today that Richard Branson is planning on launching a fleet of "glass-bottomed" planes, and all I can think is, "Ahhhhhhhhhhh!"

Neighborhoods in U.S. Cities the French Government Warns Its Traveling Citizens to Avoid

The Washington Post has a list of 16 cities in the U.S. that France warns their citizens about, with reasons or advice to stay vigilant. The advice is generally to keep an eye out on your pocketbooks when in high-tourist areas like Times Square in New York, but it's also about avoiding areas like Harlem in NYC, Anacostia in Washington D.C., the West Side of Chicago, and Inglewood in Los Angeles (see a trend here?).

Can’t Afford to Travel But Can Totally Afford to Be a Travel Snob

Most of the email newsletters I've signed up for go to spam. The ones that don't, I wish they did. Exception: The Travelzoo Weekly Top 20, which alerts me to the very best in airfare, hotels, and all-inclusive vacation packages that I have never and will never buy. I devour it each week.

Taking Solo Trips

In Slate Ben Loehnen writes about why he usually travels without his husband (Loehnen travels the world as a bird-watcher), and the autonomy that solo travel gives him (he can do whatever he wants on his own budget). Plus, he says he and his husband live their lives as if on a tandem bike, and solo vacations are a chance to give each other a break from one another.

Don’t Forget Your Change

TSA outposts at hub airports, such as John F. Kennedy International in New York or Dallas-Fort Worth International in Texas, collect cash from smaller regional airports, then forward it to TSA headquarters in Arlington. Passengers entering Miami International Airport left the largest amount of change at security last year, $39,613, while people leaving Las Vegas — perhaps flush with slot machine winnings — forgot $26,900.21.

Passengers left $8,207.21 behind at Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport, $5,247.56 at Reagan Washington National Airport and a whopping $16,536.92 at Washington Dulles International Airport, the report said.

According to The Washington Post, Americans left about half a million dollars in forgotten change while going through airport security last year. My plan of action of going through airport security is to dump everything I have in my pockets into one zippered compartment of my carry-on rather than in the bin, though I suppose if you don’t have a bag or carry-on with you, it makes it easier for you to forget (I also imagine people rushing to their gate and leaving their change behind on purpose).

But the most interesting part of this story is that the TSA hasn’t figured out what to do with the money besides fix some signs at the cost of $6,000 because the cost of spending that money could be greater than the money collected:

A similar measure Miller introduced in the last Congress, H.R. 2179, would have awarded the money to United Service Organizations, Inc., the nonprofit that runs in-airport lounges for military personnel. The Congressional Budget Office estimated [pdf] that collecting, accounting for and transferring the money to the USO would cost $1.2 million — $700,000 more than the actual amount collected.

Makes sense.

Photo: Dan Palushka

The Way I Get By: Confessions of a Flight Attendant’s Daughter

I have luck with just one thing in life, but it’s a big thing: planes. As in, I’m always, somehow, against all odds, managing to get on them. Let me explain. My Mom is a flight attendant and one of the perks of the gig is that her family members can fly for free, so long as they fly in space available seats — those never purchased or that belong to people who, for one reason or another, never show up. Since most flights are oversold versus ever having empty seats, I’m usually in the morally compromising position of betting on other people’s bad luck; hoping, but trying not to hope, that somebody will miss their connection or get stuck in security, so I can take their spot.

Notes from an Airport

JOMO KENYATTA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NAIROBI, KENYA But then: another one of those airports, like Newark, where you can’t let your guard down or trust anything that anyone tells you. A place where you have to snap out of it. Nothing will be easy here. East African Safari? Right over there in the waiting tent, sir; a representative will come and collect you and the other passengers. A representative? No, you have to go through immigration. Transit? Twenty dollars please. East African Safari is in the Cargo Terminal, reachable via shuttle bus—that shuttle bus. No, it’s in the domestic terminal, which is now the international terminal because the airport burned down on Wednesday. Or possibly it’s the cargo terminal that’s now the domestic terminal, which means the international terminal would be—

It isn’t an exaggeration to say that it took several hours to disentangle all of this, although this is to be expected, since the airport—the third busiest in Africa by passenger volume. Like, imagine JFK burning down and you’ll get an idea of how major this is—had in fact been reduced to a charred hunk of ’60s brutalist concrete the previous Wednesday. And what a field day the conspiracy theorists are having! “I DIDN’T BURN AIRPORT, SAYS PARETTI,” trumpeted possibly the greatest newspaper headline I’ve ever seen; “BLAZE CATASTROPHE,” read another, elegantly.

Blogger Armin Rosen has a fascinating post about visiting nine airports in the Middle East and Africa, describing his experiences at each one of them. I mostly fly out of JFK and in my experience, it takes forever to get through JetBlue’s security screening at Terminal 5, and is less of a pain if say, you are flying on Virgin America and going through Terminal 4. I’ve also haven’t had many problems flying out of LAX. Haven’t yet flown out of charred airport yet.

Photo: Shankar S.

Things I’ve Gotten for Free at Airport Clubs

In the past few months, I’ve found myself deluged with free passes to the various fancy lounges that airlines offer to their frequent-flier customers, and sell for an average of $50 per visit to the rest of us.