The Holidays Are About the Fa La La, Not the Moo La La

This year, we’ll collectively fork out $465 billion on holiday spending. Of all that cash, about 43% is spent on travel, and another 41% on gifts. Saving in those two areas alone can really help make a difference in your wallet.

A few things the airlines don’t want you to know

When you figure that Americans will spend more than $6 million on air travel during the holiday season, the costs can seem unavoidable. But if you follow a few simple rules, you could save hundreds.

  • Avoid buying a ticket for the Friday before Christmas
  • Fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Sundays on off-peak hours
  • Search tickets for one passenger at a time—airlines tend to jack up the prices when you buy for more than one.
  • Clear your browser history, or search incognito. The more airlines learn about you, the more they learn about where your spending habits are and the more they can skew the prices based on what they know about you.

Online hacks that’ll help save your wallet

It’s a digital world. And that makes shopping a whole lot easier, but it also opens up the opportunity for huge savings.

  • Take Honey for example. It’s a Google Chrome extension that tests every coupon code available, so you don’t have to.
  • Amazon Prime is only $99/yr, and it currently gives you free shipping on a ton of things listed on the site—which has some of the most competitive prices already.
  • Deal Squad is a site that checks to make sure you’re getting the best price available—you just cut and paste the URL of the item you’re watching.

Go for thoughtful, not pricey

Putting more thought into a gift means you can spend a little less. Say your coworker loves elephants—buy him the elephant socks you know he’d never buy for himself. Same goes with magazine subscriptions. If your dad loves boating, get him a boating magazine—it’s a gift that keeps giving, year-round. Or you can gift what you’re good at—get crafty. Yeah, pecan pie bakers, we’re looking at you. Even if you’ve never tried out a DIY, it’s worth a visit to Pinterest for some inspiration. Sometimes a meaningful gift goes a lot further than one with a high price tag.

Charities need your time, not just your cash

You can give charity a hand without breaking the bank—just give some of your time. And it’s a great way to spend time with your friends and family too. You could volunteer as a group at a food shelter or soup kitchen—or you can look for local opportunities on Volunteermatch.






Source: Ally Bank


The 6 Top Airlines for Holiday Travel


Experience air travel at its best during the hectic travel season.

We all remember nightmarish winter travel stories from our favorite holiday movies. From rushing through crowded terminals to dealing with flight cancellations to losing luggage in transit, iconic holiday films remind us of epic travel blunders that arise during the busy holiday travel season. And while it’s tricky to dodge winter travel headaches altogether, there are some airlines that make travel during the holidays relatively smooth and pain-free. Whether you’re traveling with kids, seeking an airline with perks such as free Wi-Fi, elevated in-flight entertainment and cuisine or looking for a carrier with an easy rebooking process for weather-related delays, here are six top airlines for holiday travel.


Delta Air Lines

In the last few years Delta has quietly done a commendable job bringing its cabins up to speed. High-speed Wi-Fi is available on nearly all of Delta’s planes. Plus, the airline has consistently delivered a high on-time performance during the holiday travel season in recent years. And Delta has made great strides to enhance its in-flight entertainment and cuisine, as well as general customer service, with added amenities such as free doughtnuts or bagels and coffee for early morning flights in most major hubs. Plus, if you hold Silver Medallion status (or higher) with the Delta SkyMiles program, when there are empty seats, you can enjoy a complimentary upgrade to a first-class seat.


Air France

If you are going to endure a long-haul flight from the U.S. to Europe over the holidays, consider flying with Air France. The carrier has invested in upgrading its planes with tech-savvy entertainment systems that provide over 1,000 hours of on-demand programming. Also, Air France has a best-in-class premium economy cabin with spacious economy seats. Even better, If you fly in a business-class seat, feature films are available in high-definition, screens are an oversized 17 inches and you can enjoy delicious meal service with cuisine options developed by the Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud.


Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific offers scheduled passenger and cargo services to nearly 200 destinations in Asia, North America, Australia, Europe and Africa. Seasoned international jet-setters praise Cathay for its impeccable airport lounges, superlative kid’s menu options (you can call in advance for any dietary needs) and innovative in-flight entertainment systems. And recently, the airline elevated its culinary offerings by partnering with celebrity chef Daniel Green to develop a vegetarian menu filled with options such as seared ahi tuna, edamame, butter lettuce and sesame soy ginger vinaigrette and Thai red vegetable curry in light coconut milk and Thai sweet basil, to cater to a variety of palates.


Virgin Atlantic

Virgin America has won many best-in-class awards for its quality customer service and tech-forward amenities, including in-flight Wi-Fi and an in-flight entertainment platform with a touch-screen TV and an on-demand menu that allows fliers to order a cocktail or snack from their seat any time during a flight. Even better, Virgin Atlantic offers guests the ability to stream Netflix, making Virgin Atlantic the only airline to offer this service. If you’re willing to splurge (or you’re traveling with younger globe-trotters with picky preferences) Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy cabin boasts a wide selection of complimentary snacks, from candy to chips to fresh fruit and other select British goodies.


Qantas Airways

If you’re heading to Australia to ring in the New Year with youngsters in tow, Qantas offers plenty of family-friendly perks. Kids have their own designated areas within airport lounges, a welcome amenity kit and their own entertainment channel. Meanwhile, adults can pick from more than 1,500 entertainment options on Qantas’ Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 planes, making the nearly 24-hour flight from the East Coast much more comfortable. Plus, Qantas offers service to Australia and the Pacific from hubs in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Honolulu. What’s more, you can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting on long-haul flights, thanks to the airline’s Sommelier in the Sky Program.


Etihad Airways

Flying with Etihad Airways during the holidays (or any time of year) affords a lavish air travel experience. You can enjoy excellent cuisine, in-flight Wi-Fi and a top-notch entertainment system, regardless of which class of service you select. Plus, you’ll have access to more than 120 movies and 300 TV shows. If you’re looking to spring for the penultimate form of holiday travel, try the three-bedroom Etihad apartment in the sky, known as The Residence. Inside the first-class suite, guests can enjoy a private living room, a bedroom and shower room, as well as the service of a Savoy-trained butler, a gourmet in-flight chef and a concierge team, among other perks.







Written by Sery Kim of U.S. News & World Report

Source: U.S. News & World Report




Airport Aims to Use Uber Drivers’ Fingerprints to Check Past

Atlanta Airport Uber
AP Photo/Jeff Martin

ATLANTA — A battle over background checks for Uber drivers at the world’s busiest airport comes as cities like Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, consider more thorough screenings to prevent criminals from getting behind the wheel.

Uber has objected to the Atlanta airport’s plan to use fingerprints to check criminal records of its drivers, saying its own record checks are sufficient.

But the district attorney in Uber’s hometown of San Francisco has called the ride-booking firm’s process “completely worthless” since drivers aren’t fingerprinted.

In Houston, city officials say they found that background checks without fingerprints allow criminals who have been charged with murder, sexual assault and other crimes to evade detection in a variety of ways.

Atlanta’s city council on Wednesday is set to consider the airport’s plan for screening drivers for Uber, Lyft and other ride-booking firms when proposed new rules go before the council’s transportation committee.

Uber has agreements with more than 50 U.S. airports, none of which require the fingerprint-based background checks being proposed by Atlanta’ s airport, the company said in a statement. Those airports include major air hubs in Denver; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Salt Lake City, Utah.

But New York City does fingerprint drivers, and the mayor of Los Angeles this month asked state regulators to allow his city to do so as well.

Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, was among the first in the nation to require drivers for Uber and other ride-booking firms to undergo fingerprint-based background checks using the FBI’s database. Houston’s program began in November 2014, and city officials there say they’re far more thorough than any other way of checking someone’s criminal past.

“Public safety is our No. 1 priority — that’s something the city of Houston does not compromise on,” said Lara Cottingham, Houston’s deputy assistant director of administration and regulatory affairs. “That’s the reason we license any vehicle for hire.”

Since Houston’s ordinance went into effect, the city’s fingerprint-based FBI background checks have found driver applicants who have been charged with murder, sexual assault, robbery and indecent exposure, among other crimes. Those drivers had already cleared the commercial background checks used by ride-for-hire companies, according to a city report released this month.

Potential drivers can pass background checks that don’t rely on fingerprints simply by using an alias, the report found. For instance, one driver cleared by a company that does background checks for Uber underwent Houston’s fingerprint check, which turned up 24 alias names, 10 listed social security numbers and an active arrest warrant, the report states.

Companies that perform background checks for ride-hailing firms typically seek to identify counties where they’ve lived in the past, then search public records from those places, the report states. But the checks don’t search every county, creating “a huge potential gap where crimes go undetected,” the report states.

“The FBI provides the only true nationwide check,” the report states.

Uber has now been operating in Houston for more than a year, “and everything we’ve seen is that the number of drivers getting licenses continues to grow and their business continues to thrive,” Cottingham said.

However, Uber maintains that Atlanta’s plan would add “substantial, additional bureaucratic barriers for drivers,” company spokesman Bill Gibbons said. Atlanta would use the Georgia Department of Driver Services to help check the backgrounds of potential drivers, though specific details of how drivers would be screened haven’t been released.

The ride-booking firm Lyft also says Atlanta’s proposal would prove difficult.

“While the Hartsfield-Jackson staff has recognized the benefits Lyft provides, the current plan as proposed will make it extremely difficult for Lyft to operate,” Lyft said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The conflict in Atlanta is the latest in a series of disputes Uber has had over its background checks of drivers.

In December 2014, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced a lawsuit against Uber, partly over its background checks.

In Los Angeles, “registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, identity thieves, burglars, and a convicted murderer had passed Uber’s ‘industry leading’ background check,” the lawsuit states.

“Uber’s process cannot ensure that the information in the background check report is actually associated with the applicant since it does not use a unique biometric identifier such as a fingerprint,” the lawsuit adds.

Written by Jeff Martin of Associated Press

(Source: Associated Press)

More than 5,000 Flights Canceled as East Braces for Historic Blizzard

Chicago O Hare Airport
Provided by AP

With one of the largest blizzards to in recent history expected to bring havoc along the East Coast this weekend, airlines have began to preemptively cancel flights.

According to airline tracking serviceFlightAware, airlines have canceled more than 5,000 flight within, into or out of the US.

More than 2,500 flights were canceled on Friday, and roughly the same number have been canceled for Saturday.

Thus far, the airports hardest hit by cancellations have been concentrated along the mid-Atlantic region, with Charlotte and the Washington, DC area airports bearing the brunt.

As the storm moves north, Philadelphia, New York and Boston are ramping up their cancellations in preparation for the winter storm Jonas’ impact.

Furthermore, the blizzard has created a backup that has rippled across the nation, with Atlanta and Chicago each reporting more than 100 flight cancellations on Friday.

As a result, airlines such as Delta, United, Virgin America, JetBlue and American have offered passengers with tickets for travel to certain snow-affected airports the opportunity to change their flights schedules free of charge.

For airlines, these cancellations are precautionary measures meant to ensure the safety of the passengers, crew and their multi-million dollar equipment.

Predicting the path and severity of the these types of winter megastorm is an inexact science. Last year, the New York area was expected to be clobbered by a massive blizzard that missed the city, unleashing its fury upon Boston instead.

Written by Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider

(Source: MSN)

United Airlines to Serve Free Snacks in Economy Class

United Airlines airplane painted in new corporate logo is seen ate at Liberty International Airport in Newark,
REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

United Airlines on Wednesday said it will offer free snacks on all flights starting February 2016, a departure for an industry that has moved toward charging for extra services.

The move follows customer feedback that Oscar Munoz, chief executive of parent United Continental Holdings Inc, solicited when he took the top job at the second-largest U.S. airline in September. Munoz currently is on medical leave following an October heart attack.

It was not immediately clear what the free food – a caramel-filled waffle on early-morning flights and savory snack mixes later in the day on North American service – would cost United.

Other U.S. carriers such as JetBlue Airways Corp currently offer free snacks on all flights. United now only serves free food on international flights.

Written by Reuters

(Source: MSN)

Los Angeles Airport to Build Special Terminal Just for Celebrities

Actor Pierce Brosnan, right, is surrounded by people seeking an autograph on Nov. 6, 2014, at Los Angeles International Airport.
GVK/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images/Getty Images

Welcome to the 1%’s new airport terminal. Los Angeles international airport on Thursday won approval to build a special terminal to allow celebrities, sports stars and the world’s wealthy to glide directly from their chauffeur-driven limo to their first-class seat without having to interact with any of the general travelling public.

The airport’s Board of Airport Commissioners unanimously approved LAX’s plan to redevelop a cargo hangar into the US’s first terminal dedicated to the rich and famous . The airport said the Los Angeles Suite, which will allow celebrities and diplomats to avoid paparazzi, or protesters, by allowing cars to drop off guests behind closed doors, will be operational at a temporary facility within six months.

It will cost $1,500-$1,800 per trip to use the new terminal, which will include exclusive lounges, dedicated catering and separate security and border checkpoints. When it’s time to board, guests will be driven directly to their plane. The plans promise that guests using the new terminal will have to walk about 60 steps, compared to as many as 2,200 from street to plane seat via the public terminals.

Airport officials said the new terminal is aimed at attracting more celebrities and business executives to LAX, and represented a much more cost-effective solution for them to avoiding unwanted attention than spending tens of thousands of dollars chartering a private jet.

Deborah Ale Flint, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports which operates LAX, said allowing celebrities a private route through the airport will also make travelling more pleasant for the general public, who have often been caught up in media scrums.

LAX said the new 43,750ft terminal, which will be built and run by celebrity security firm Gavin de Becker & Associates, will bring in additional revenue of $3.7m in the first year and $34m over the 10-year lease.

DeBecker said that if the project proves successful his firm plans to introduce similar facilities at New York’s JFK and possibly San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Dallas.

The Los Angeles Suite is modelled on the Windsor Suite at London’s Heathrow, which was once reserved for the royal family and visiting heads of state and diplomatic visits but opened up to those with big wallets in 2008 after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) cut its funding. Now access is available for anyone for a minimum of £2,000.

The Heathrow VIP service offers personal shoppers to go out and brave the mayhem of duty free on behalf of guests and promises to take a firm approach with paparazzi. “Should we be aware of paparazzi at the airport or surrounding public areas, the airport team will request they cease and move on,” it says in its frequently asked questions.

Written by Rupert Neate of The Guardian 

(Source: The Guardian)

How Economies Pick Up and Move On After Terrorist Attacks

People read victims' names at the 9/11 Empty Sky memorial at sunrise in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, N.J., on September 11, 2015.


 If there is any good news for France after the horrific violence in Paris on Friday, it’s that terrorists generally aren’t able to destroy the economies of the countries where they strike. Societies are resilient, and people can soon get back to doing business after attacks like this one. The purely economic consequences of recent terrorism have been limited and temporary.

Several researchers at universities and in the private sector have tried to quantify the costs of the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Their estimates range from about $50 billion to $100 billion, less than 1 percent of the total U.S. economy.

The New York City comptroller put the immediate damage at $21.8 billion in New York, including the destruction of buildings, infrastructure and property and the costs of medical care. The income that those killed in the attack would have brought to the city in the remainder of their careers, had they survived, totaled another $8.7 billion.

The attacks were also costly for specific sectors of the economy. The unexpected claims on insurance companies were largely absorbed by reinsurance firms, such as Swiss Re, which put the total cost to the industry between $30 billion and $58 billion. Following the attacks, insurers generally stopped offering policies that covered losses due to terrorism, and these days, the costs of insuring against terrorism are subsidized by the federal government.

Also, the global airline industry lost $11.8 billion in 2001, canceling out its profits from the previous year, and carriers didn’t start making money again until three years later.

The economy, though, recovered quickly from these immediate costs. A federal report estimated that the rate of economic growth was half a percentage point lower in 2001 than it would have been had the attacks been foiled, and 598,000 more people were out of work. Businesses had adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude, putting off new hiring and investment until after the ramifications of the attack became clear. They made up for lost time the next year, though, aided by the economy’s overall recovery from a recession that had begun before the terrorist attacks when the price of technology stocks collapsed.

In the long term, the Bush administration’s responses to the attacks — increased security at home and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq — were far more costly in an economic sense than the attacks themselves, according to economists Adam Z. Rose and Brock S. Blomberg.

“We, rather than the perpetrators, are the major determinant of the consequences of a major terrorist attack,” they wrote.

The attacks on New York City and the Pentagon are also likely to be far costlier financially than last week’s attacks in Paris. Nearly 3,000 died on Sept. 11, 2001, while the toll of Friday’s assault in Paris is currently 129.

The terrorists in Paris did not manage to destroy skyscrapers or passenger jets. Their strategy was a contrast with the attacks on the World Trade Center, which was calculated to cause economic harm, said Walter Enders, an economist who recently retired from the University of Alabama.

“They didn’t go to the heart of Paris,” said Enders, predicting that tourism in Paris would not be affected. “They didn’t hit the Eiffel Tower. They didn’t hit anything on the Champs-Élysées. They didn’t hit Notre Dame.”

An attack more like the one in Paris on Friday occurred in Madrid in 2004, when terrorists bombed commuter trains, killing 191 people. Researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid concluded that the costs of that attack were equivalent to 0.03 percent of Spain’s economy.

Written by Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post

(Source: The Washington Post)

Southwest Airlines’ Pilots Reject Tentative Contract: Union

© REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Pilots at Southwest Airlines Co have rejected a tentative contract with the U.S. budget carrier, their union said on Wednesday.

Some 62 percent of votes were against ratifying the contract, with 95.1 percent of the union’s members voting, according to a news release from the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association.

Talks have dragged on for more than three years, and in November 2014 the U.S. National Mediation Board stepped in to oversee negotiations. In May, the union announced staffing and funding for a committee to prepare pilots for a strike in case a deal could not be reached.

Union President Paul Jackson said in the release that the deal included higher pay and some improvements to work rules.

However, he said, “there were new company allowances in this agreement that our pilots did not find palatable.”

In a statement, Southwest said: “We must continue working (to) reach an agreement that meets the needs of our pilots and the company.”

Southwest also said it expects mediated discussions to resume in the Spring of 2016.

Written by Reuters

(Source: Reuters)

Airlines Pocket Record $38B from Extra Fees

© Provided by CNBC
© Provided by CNBC

When something works—and works well—you stick with it.

That’s the approach that airlines across the globe are taking, as a new report found ancillary fee revenue grew at a double-digit pace last year.

In fact, despite grumblings from passengers about additional charges, revenue from checked bags, changed reservations and a host of other additional fees jumped nearly 21 percent to an all-time high of $38.1 billion, according the annual study by IdeaWorksCompany and CarTrawler.

“This report shows ancillary fees have become a reliable source of revenue for airlines, and airlines know what they can do to increase it,” said Jay Sorensen, president of IdeaWorks.

The growth in revenue from these fees is staggering. In 2007, for example, airlines collected just $2.45 billion in ancillary revenue.

Other numbers showing the growth in airline fees include:

• Ancillary revenue per passenger among 63 airlines worldwide was $17.49, an 8.5 percent increase compared to 2013;

• Low-cost carriers collected more than $2.9 billion, an increase of 32.8 percent year over year;

• Ancillary revenue among major U.S. airlines jumped more than $2.6 billion, or 18.7 percent.

Among the largest airlines in the world, United  (UAL) collected the most in ancillary fees, topping $5.8 billion, according to IdeaWorks. It was followed by American/US Airways  (AAL) at $4.65 billion, and Delta  (DAL) with more than $3.2 billion.

Sorensen said airlines are doing a better job selling perks such as early boarding, or seats with more legroom. Increasingly, he sees airlines successfully selling customers on extras when they check in for flights online or at airport kiosks.

“The sale of those à la carte items is very successful because the airlines can tailor that offer to you,” he said.

With carriers already pushing fees for checked bags, early boarding, and snacks or meals on planes, Sorensen said many are eyeing in-flight entertainment as a means for future growth in ancillary fees.

“More airlines are saying, ‘We will provide a base level of Wi-Fi access and then if you want to upgrade beyond that, say to check email or watch a movie, you can pay for that,'” he said.

Written by Phil LeBeau of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)

Which Airlines Charge the Most Extra Fees?

© michaeljung/shutterstock
© michaeljung/shutterstock
Online tools have made it easy to compare airfares and find the lowest ticket prices. But for travelers who don’t factor in fees for “optional services,” the overall cost of a flight can be surprisingly high. What used to come standard — a carry-on bag or nonalcoholic beverage, for instance — may now come at a cost. At the same time, existing fees are rising, and JetBlue just joined the crowd charging for the first checked bag. has compiled detailed charts comparing a range of airline feeslevied by 10 U.S. carriers and picked the best and worst when it comes to extra charges. Here are the rankings, along with fees for domestic flights in the lowest fare class.

Some airlines tack on more extra charges than others.


The Spirit model is to charge as little as possible for airfare and then add fees for virtually everything else. That includes seat selection ($1-$50), boarding passes printed at the airport ($10), carry-on bags ($35-$100), and in-flight beverage service ($2-$3).

  • First checked bag: $30-$100 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $110 online, $120 by phone or at the airport


This discount airline charges numerous fees including $2 for nonalcoholic drinks; $10-$75 for carry-on bags; up to $8 for using an American Express card; and up to $80 to select a seat. Allegiant fees are assessed per segment (one takeoff and landing).

  • First checked bag: $15-$75 (depending on the route and how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $75 per segment


There’s little difference in fees among the transcontinental legacy carriers (United, Delta, and American/US Airways). United was the first to increase its domestic change fee to $200. The airline also has some of the highest fees for a third checked bag ($150) and oversize bags ($200).

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200


Although the two airlines have merged, fees are still assessed by the carrier operating the flight. Most charges are the same, including a steep $200 change fee. On American, passengers can upgrade to Choice Plus (an additional $80-$89) to avoid that fee and receive one free checked bag, among other benefits.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200


With fees comparable to what the other transcontinental legacy carriers charge, Deltashouldn’t surprise many travelers with its add-ons. Along with American and United, it waives certain checked-bag fees for customers with airline-branded credit cards.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $200


Fees for non-alcoholic beverages and carry-on bags are sure to aggravate some passengers, but overall Frontier’s fees are no higher the rest of the industry’s. Many fees are waived with the purchase of a more expensive Classic Plus ticket, and there may not be much difference in fare.

  • First checked bag: $20-$60 (depending on how far in advance the fee is paid)
  • Change/cancellation: $99


Virgin America charges middling fees in general but is notably lenient when it comes to excess baggage. The third checked bag costs the same as the first — $25, compared with at least $75 on most other airlines — and almost no one charges less for oversize and overweight bags.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: $100 or $150 (depending on the route)


JetBlue recently added a checked-bag fee but still offers travelers complimentary DirecTV, as well as free snacks more substantial than the usual pack of pretzels. Change and cancellation fees are graduated based on the price of the flight, fare type, and number of days before departure.

  • First checked bag: $20 online or at a kiosk, $25 at the ticket counter
  • Change/cancellation: $70-$135


Alaska waives many fees for residents of its namesake state, through the free Club 49 program, and keeps extra charges relatively low for everybody else. A second checked bag costs only $25, and fees for bags that are overweight ($50) or oversize ($75) are below the industry average.

  • First checked bag: $25
  • Change/cancellation: Free at least 60 days in advance; $125 otherwise


Southwest is hands-down the best airline for travelers worried about fees. It’s the only one that lets passengers check up to two bags without paying and charges no fee to change or cancel a flight. Customers pay only the difference in fare.

  • First checked bag: Free
  • Change/cancellation: Free

Written by Louis DeNicola of Cheapism

(Source: Cheapism)