Photo: United Continental
Great news for business travelers and frequent fliers! United Continental has announced plans to offer more perks to its customers, including free in-flight Wi-Fi. United Airlines will add Wi-Fi to more than 200 planes, including its Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft.
United Continental also includes Continental, which merged with United late last year. The airlines are in the process of moving to a unified brand. Continental already offers LiveTV to its customers, but soon both airlines will provide fliers with access to Wi-Fi and 95 LiveTV stations.
The airline merger has even bigger plans on the horizon. United Continental is exploring adding international Wi-Fi service and looking at striking a deal with other broadband providers to help wire its fleet of more than 700 jets, according to United Continental CEO Jeff Smisek.
Photo: This is the outdoor lounge at the Sheraton Tribeca in the Big Apple, where club
members can enjoy amenities while looking at the city skyline. (Sheraton Hotels)
Sheraton has renovated 103 of its hotels in North America. Starwood, Sheraton’s parent company, kicked off a $6 billion global revamp of the chain in 2007, and now it’s looking to expand in China.
An article on USAToday.com, claims the chain’s makeover has made Sheraton more competitive with other hotel chains, including Marriot, Hilton, Radisson and Hyatt.
Hoyt Harper, Starwood’s SVP of brand management, says the company cut 41 hotels from the chain because they did not meet Sheraton’s new standards, and it wasn’t a cheap move either.
Looking for an easier, new way to book hotel rooms? Expedia.com will launch a new app soon for travelers to search for and book hotel rooms. The free app will be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
According to MSNBC.com, Expedia Hotels app is the first in a series of mobile apps that the company will launch this year for the iPhone and phones that use Google’s Android operating system. No word on when the new app will be released for you to download, but stay tuned for more details. We’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, check out Travel Channel’s travel gear guide, app reviews and more, to help make traveling for your next trip a little easier.
Construction on a new Disneyland theme park is scheduled to start as early as May in Shanghai. The Disney project will include 3 parks including Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom. The first phase of the theme park will cost $3.7 billion dollars.
According to a Chinese government statement earlier this month, plans indicate several water features, including a lake and 6-mile, man-made river surrounding the park, which will be located 13 miles from People’s Square. The gates of Shanghai Disney aren’t expected to open until 2015.
China will also be home to another new theme park. World of Warcraft, modeled after the online game, has been touted as the first video-game-themed attraction. There were rumors that the theme park was a hoax, but the Huffington Post claims there are plenty of construction photos and Chinese news stories about the project. The park will be built in China’s Wunjin district.
No word yet on when gamers will get their chance to explore the new theme park.
Increasing gas prices may prompt travelers to pump the breaks and put a halt on their plans for a road trip. Gas prices could take a bite out of the travel market if American families pull back on spring and summer road trips.
According to AAA, gas near Yosemite National park in California, is already running close to $4.50 per gallon for regular. The east coast isn’t any better. In Washington, DC, the average price for gas has risen 40 cents over the last month to $3.68.
Business may drop a bit as people tailor their plans to suit their budgets if fuel prices stay high and continue to rise. For some, staying closer to home may be an option. That’s what travelers did during the summer of 2008 when fuel prices reached record highs, according to AAA national spokesman Troy Green in a recent CNN.com article.
Luxury hotels in Hong Kong are taking Japanese fish, beef and other foods off their menus due to Japan’s nuclear crisis, according to Bloomberg.
The concern is that food may have been contaminated after radiation was released from the deteriorating nuclear power plant.Shangri-La, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons hotels in Hong Kong have all stopped buying fresh foods from Japan even though no clear risk has been confirmed yet.
At the Four Seasons in Hong Kong, chefs are no longer cooking up Wagyu beef, sea scallops and abalone from Japan. The hotel is using products from New Zealand and Australia, according to hotel publicist Claire Blackshaw.
Hotel officials say they won’t add Japanese food back on the menu until the situation stabilizes.
The US Travel Association wants to make traveling easier for fliers. According to CNN.com, the group is calling for a trusted traveler program that would allow passengers who volunteer certain information about themselves to go through less rigorous security before their flight.
Under this proposed program, passengers would be considered low-risk based on information such as a background check, employment history, lack of a criminal record and other factors. Each participating passenger’s identity would be confirmed at the airport using biometric info, allowing them to pass through security at a quicker pace.
TSA Administrator John Pistole believes something needs to change. “The TSA screens more than 628 million airline passengers every year at US airports, and the vast majority present little to no risk of committing an act of terrorism,” he said earlier this month.
Austin’s SXSW festival isn’t just for music fans, interactive geeks and film snobs anymore; it’s also for foodies. There are dozens of food trucks set up along the streets, and the choices range from mild to wild. Festivalgoers can make a pit stop at Before The Cone food truck, which is set up outside the Convention Center, to pick up a waffle cone filled with bacon and a mixture of decadent ingredients.
If you’re looking for something a little tamer, then visit Short Bus Subs. These guys serve up deli, chicken and veggie sandwiches with unique names, including the “Hot For Teacher,” “Summer Vacation,” “The Cheerleader” and “The Pep Rally.” And don’t be bashful, there are other food trucks to sample, including Mighty Cone, Flip Happy Crepes, Torchy’s Tacos and Hey Cupcake!
There are lots of opportunities for foodies to mix and mingle at SXSW. Food bloggers and Tweeters hold bleet-ups or tweet-ups to sample some of Austin’s offerings. The Big Texas Beer Tweet-up provided beer connoisseurs the opportunity to hang out and sample a variety of beers with local, self-proclaimed “Twunkards” (tweeting drunkards). Others joined the TacoJournalism’s Taco Mafia for breakfast tacos after a long night of SXSW parties.
Thousands of people converged at the Austin Convention Center for the second day of South by Southwest, one of the largest music festivals in the world. The popular festival runs from March 11 to 20, and it has something for everyone.
Within the past few years, the festival has expanded to include SXSW Film, one of the world’s premier film festivals focusing on new directing talent. In 2007, the festival organizers took it a step further, by adding SXSW Interactive. This portion of the festival attracts web creators and entrepreneurs, which creates a great breeding ground for new ideas and creative, emerging technologies.
The festival also includes SXSW ScreenBurn to highlight the video game industry, and Style X to showcase new talent in the fashion industry. SXSW Comedy was added for the first time this year to provide comedians with several new venues to perform their acts.
Photo: Mount Kilauea erupting March 6 in Hawaii (USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory)
Mount Kilauea attracted a slurry of national media attention on March 7, a few days after the Big Island volcano began erupting from a new location, and hot lava spewed up to 80 feet into the air. Major media outlets from California to New York picked up the story and splashed it around the globe.
I’m currently living on the Big Island about 20 miles from the volcano, so it wasn’t long before I received concerned phone calls from friends, along with an e-mail from my mother on the East Coast. “Let me hear from you,” she wrote — her way of asking if I’m still alive. Like most non-Hawaiian residents, my mom doesn’t realize Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983.
Volcanic activity is nothing new on the Big Island, but the recent activity is significant and is being closely watched by the U.S. Geological Survey and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is located. USGS scientists said the eruption is the first of its kind in 14 years.
“Unpredictability is the key [to Kilauea],” said Mardie Lane, a park ranger at HVNP, during a phone call on Monday. “We’re dealing with Mother Nature at its best and it can change quickly.” She stressed the importance for visitors to follow park guidelines and not enter closed areas of the park. READ MORE